Supreme Court Rules Existing Federal Law Protects LGBTQ Workers From Discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a major victory for advocates of gay rights, reports NBC News.

The decision found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, among other factors, also covers sexual orientation.

The court upheld rulings from lower courts that said sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination.

Across the nation, 21 states have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Seven more provide that protection only to public employees. Those laws remain in force, but Monday’s ruling means federal law now provides similar protection for LGBT employees in the rest of the country.

“Gay rights groups considered the case a highly significant one, even more important than the fight to get the right to marry, because nearly every LGBT adult has or needs a job,” reports NBC News. “They conceded that sexual orientation was not on the minds of anyone in Congress when the civil rights law was passed. But they said when an employer fires a male employee for dating men, but not a female employee who dates men, that violates the law.”

“The ruling was a victory for Gerald Bostock, who was fired from a county job in Georgia after he joined a gay softball team, and the relatives of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired after he told a female client not to worry about being strapped tightly to him during a jump, because he was “100 percent gay.” Zarda died before the case reached the Supreme Court,” according to the news outlet.

The Trump administration had urged the court to rule that Title VII does not cover cases like those.

“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically make or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the Justice Department said. “An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated the decision, writing: “Being who you are shouldn’t be a fireable offense, and today the Supreme Court has affirmed that truth for the LGBTQ community under our laws. It’s a victory for liberty and justice for all. Happy Pride.”

The ACLU wrote: “Aimee Stephens, Don Zarda, and Gerald Bostock won! The Supreme Court ruled that it was against the law to fire our clients for being LGBTQ. There is no question: LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in the workplace.”