US Supreme Court Rules Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Employees
Volume: 19 | Issue: 33
June 15, 2020
In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination extends to gay, lesbian and transgender employees. While Nevada, like many states, has extended its fair employment practice laws to include protections for gender identity and expression, the federal courts have been split on whether the federal statute, Title VII, applies to the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.
Today, in the 6-3 divided decision of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court determined that Title VII does indeed apply to gay, lesbian and transgender employees. In a ruling that addresses the facts of three separate cases from three separate federal circuits, the Court reasoned that an “employer who discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees necessarily and intentionally applies sex-based rules.” The Court explained that “[a]n 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,” which is exactly what Title VII forbids.
The Court further summarized: “Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. 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.”
The Court’s analysis, written by Justice Gorsuch, provides a key takeaway — “The statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.”
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