The US Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, also applies to sexual orientation.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the ruling "extends a quarter-century of momentous advances for gay-rights advocates at the Supreme Court, " including the 2015 legalization of gay marriage, even as the court has become more conservative.
The Journal writes that "conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in addition to the four more liberal members of the court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 'An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,' the opinion said."
Axios calculates the bottom line this way: "Millions more Americans will go to bed tonight with legal protections that didn't exist when they woke up."
“This is a huge victory for LGBTQ equality,” James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tells the Washington Post, adding, “The Supreme Court’s clarification that it’s unlawful to fire people because they’re LGBTQ is the result of decades of advocates fighting for our rights. The court has caught up to the majority of our country, which already knows that discriminating against LGBTQ people is both unfair and against the law.”
The Post writes that the three justices dissenting "said their colleagues were changing the law, not interpreting it."
Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote, “Our role is not to make or amend the law. As written, Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.”
- KC's View:
Not being a constitutional lawyer, I will take a pass on whether this decision interprets existing law or changes it. Being a citizen, it seems to me that this is a good decision, and I'm a little distressed with the implication that employment discrimination ever is acceptable.
Maybe we could all just get to the point that we treat people like people, do our best not to discriminate against anyone, and get on with doing business? We'll probably all be better for it, even - or especially - if it takes us outside our comfort zones.
There will be more cases, to be sure. As I understand it, the Supreme Court made the point that this ruling does not cover the use of bathrooms or locker rooms, or whether insurance should cover gender reassignment surgery, or to what degree religious exemptions can be claimed. Those all will play out in the future … both in the courts and on the political stage.
But for the moment, businesses don't get to discriminate on the basis of gender orientation.