New Supreme Court Ruling Protects LGBTQ+ Employees From Job Discrimination
The decision follows Donald Trump’s rollback of healthcare protections for transgender patients.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that federal civil rights law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status. The ruling, which passed with a 6-3 vote, is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community in the midst of Pride Month.
Leading to its decision, the Supreme Court considered three cases, the first two concerning lawsuits filed by a pair of men who argued they were fired for being openly gay. The third concerned a transgender woman who was fired from her job at a funeral home after revealing and embracing her identity. When asked to provide a specific reason for termination, the owner of the funeral home said, “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”
According to the court, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employers from discrimination on the basis of sex (along with race, color, religion and national origin), encompasses sexual orientation and transgender status as both are inextricably linked to an individual’s sex.
As reported by NBC, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch explained in the majority opinion: “An employer who fired 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.”
Though the Supreme Court’s ruling is an undeniable triumph for the LGBTQ+ community, the Trump administration announced on June 12 that it would eliminate an Obama-era regulation that protected transgender patients from healthcare discrimination.
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for “certain health programs and activities” to refuse care on the basis of sex, as well as race, color, national origin, age and disability. In 2016, a ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) interpreted the ban on sex-based discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Now, HHS is rolling back “certain provisions of the 2016 Rule that exceeded the scope of the authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557.” The department announced that it will “enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination, according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”