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Landmark LGBT Civil Rights Ruling

The Supreme Court has ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) protects gay and transgendered employees from workplace discrimination. Title VII is a federal law which applies to employers with more than 15 employees and prohibits discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. The question before the Court was whether treating someone differently because they are homosexual or transgendered fits within the definition “because of sex.” Though some state laws on their own prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. workers, and include smaller employers, many others don’t, which meant prior to this June 15, 2020 decision, it was legal in more than half of the United States to discriminate against workers based on their sexuality or sexual orientation, including identifying as gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The Supreme Court established a constitutional right to same sex marriage in 2015, so for those L.G.B.T. workers in states without discrimination protection, they could be legally married in the morning, and fired for being gay without recourse in the afternoon. The decision thus extended significant protections to millions of U.S. workers. According to Justice Gorsuch, who wrote for the majority in the 6-3 decision, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” The ruling was a surprise coming from a fundamentally conservative court. In his majority opinion Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.