In a landmark rule, six Justices of the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting members of the LGBTQ+ community from being fired for simply being who they are.
In a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court, a six-judge coalition - unusual for the highest court of the land - affirmed that a federal anti-bias law will cover millions of gay, lesbian, and transgender workers. The declaration, which represents a monumental cultural shift in the country, was highly praised by members and activists of the LGBTQ+ community. Now, any employer who fires an individual for their gender identity or sexual orientation will be defying the law and could face repercussions, The New York Times reports. Up until Monday, when the ruling was announced, it was legal in over half of the country for employers to fire workers for being homosexual or trans.
This is the first major decision on transgender rights. It came amidst demonstrations across the United States protesting violence against trans people of color. Millions of folks will now have legal grounds to fight unfair dismissal from their places of work. The ruling is especially significant as United States President Donald Trump transformed the Supreme Court by bringing two new conservative judges to the bench. While many feared that the appointments of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh would lead to the gutting of sex discrimination protections, this has thankfully not been the case.
"This is a simple and profound victory for LGBTQ+ civil rights," said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia. "Many of us feared that the court was poised to gut sex discrimination protections and allow employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, yet it declined the federal government’s invitation to take that damaging path." Meanwhile, President Trump did not have much to say about the ruling. He stated, "I’ve read the decision and some people were surprised, but they’ve ruled and we live with their decision." He did add, nonetheless, that the ruling was "a very powerful decision, actually."
Perhaps Justice Gorsuch's statement would have come as most shocking to the President. "An 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," he wrote. "It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex." Though the affirmation was celebrated by many, others - including three Justices who chose to dissent - suggested it was a "brazen abuse of our authority."
Unlike past discussions on constitutional rights, this particular case was based on the meaning of a statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, claimed that the assertion that the ruling was merely a judicial interpretation of the statute was "deceptive." He stated, "The court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous. Discrimination ‘because of sex’ was not understood as having anything to do with discrimination because of sexual orientation or transgender status. Any such notion would have clashed in spectacular fashion with the societal norms of the day."
At the end of the day, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting all Americans - regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The Trump administration may have ditched protections for trans folks when it comes to healthcare and the military, but the Court's ruling was both "symbolic and consequential." Not only does it protect members of the LGBTQ+ community, but it also sends an important message: trans rights are, indeed, human rights.