In a stunning defeat for Donald Trump, the US Supreme Court has ruled that LGBT employees are protected from workplace discrimination across the nation.
On Monday, the court’s justices found 6-3 that the 1964 Civil Rights Act (also known as Title VII) which bars discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin, also includes LGBT status as part of the sex provision.
The dramatic ruling now means that all LGBT Americans are protected from job discrimination. Until now around half of LGBT workers lived in states in which it was possible to be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Trump administration has repeatedly argued that the Civil Rights Act does not apply to LGBT people. Last week, the administration stripped transgender Americans of health care equality because it claimed they are not protected under the category of sex.
The decision is particularly significant as the Supreme Court bench includes two conservative justices appointed by President Trump.
“It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch in the ruling.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” the court affirmed.
“This is a landmark victory for LGBTQ equality,” commented Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love.”
The ruling centred on three cases involving two gay men, Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock, and a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who were all fired because of their identity. Stephens’ case was a particular landmark because it is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a matter dealing with transgender equality.
Stephens was fired from her job as a funeral director after six years when she came out as transgender. Her boss said she could no longer represent the company as it went against “God’s commands”. Both Stephens and Zarda are no longer alive and never got the opportunity to celebrate the victory.
“Today is not just a day to celebrate progress for LGBTQ people, it’s a day to thank Aimee, Don, and Gerald for putting themselves forward through these cases in order to help millions of people all across the country,” said James Esseks, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “And it’s a day to thank Aimee and Don’s families for continuing their cases in their honour. Without heroes like them, the protections in our legal system would not work.”
In a statement, Bostock, the surviving petitioner said: “When I was fired seven years ago, I was devastated. But this fight became about so much more than me. Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love. Yet, there is more work to be done. Discrimination has no place in this world, and I will not rest until we have equal rights for all.”