Victory! Supreme Court ruling affirms legal protections for LGBTQ workers nationwide
June 15, 2020
Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a watershed ruling affirming that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from job discrimination. In response, GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto issued the following statement:
Today’s historic ruling affirms critical legal protections for LGBTQ people across the country. The Supreme Court has settled the question of whether federal employment nondiscrimination law protects transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. The answer is a definitive “yes.”
The 6-3 ruling authored by Justice Gorsuch recognizes that existing federal sex discrimination protections for workers apply to LGBTQ people based on well-established precedent and because a person’s sexual orientation or transgender status can only be understood in relationship to their sex. This conclusion “has been standing before us all along,” the majority opinion states. Further, prohibiting employment discrimination is a “major piece of civil rights legislation” written in “starkly broad terms.” As a result, the Court holds employers are liable for discrimination when an individual’s “sex is a but-for cause” of harm to an employee.
Today’s decision joins other foundational sex discrimination opinions about sexual harassment (1986), sex stereotyping (1989) and same-sex sexual harassment (1998), all of which the Supreme Court has found to be within the broad scope of what Congress wrote into federal Title VII law.
Our civil rights laws are intended to help our country live up to its promises of equality, and today’s decision from the Supreme Court brings us another step closer to that promise.
And as right and welcome as this ruling is, our work is not done. Our federal and many state laws still leave too many LGBTQ people and others unprotected in critical areas of life including access to public places like stores or public transportation, or in federally funded vital social services. Today’s ruling also arrives against the backdrop of pervasive systemic racism and racist violence, that imposes incalculable and intolerable costs on Black Americans and all people of color, including those who are LGBTQ.
The fight for LGBTQ justice is inseparable from the fight for racial justice. As we celebrate today’s decision, we must continue working with Congress, state and local officials, and all institutions and all people in this nation to ensure discrimination is off limits in every arena. We must strive to ensure that the words of our statutes have meaning and real-world impacts for all Americans.