Author: Sam Buisman
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee over their sexual or gender identity.
In a 6-3 decision, the court decided that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws sex discrimination in the workplace, also affords the same protections to LGBTQ+ employees. Conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Cheif Justice John Roberts joined the four members of the court’s liberal wing to form a majority.
Justice Gorsuch also wrote the court’s majority opinion, in which the court addresses that while Title VII likely wasn’t intended to protect LGBTQ+ persons, the way the law is written still mandates it.
“[T]he limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands,” wrote Gorsuch. “When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
This case, Bostock v. Clayton County, began when Gerald Bostock sued his former employer, Georga’s Clayton County, after he joined a gay softball league and was fired thereafter.
The plaintiffs argued that discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or gender nonconformity is a form of sex discrimination and thus illegal under Title VII. They reasoned that if a woman expresses attraction to men and isn’t punished by her employer but a man who expresses attraction to men is, the employer is determining their punishment based on the sex of their employee in violation of Title VII. The plaintiffs followed a similar chain of logic to prove the law also protects transgender employees.
However, the opinion does suggest that certain religious organizations may be able to claim exemptions from this rule but leaves this an open question for further rulings.