Title VII Protects LGBTQIA Community
In a landmark decision in June 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination now protects LGBTQIA employees. The court rendered its decision 6-3, with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch penning the majority opinion. He was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also dissented in a separate opinion.
In decision that ends sex discrimination against employees that identify as LGBTQIA, the court opined that “ 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. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
With this decision, the Supreme Court expanded the protections afforded by Title VII, vindicating the rights of LGBTQIA workers, and preventing discrimination and harassment against LGBTQIA discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court affirmed the right to work, free of discrimination because of gender identity or sexuality.
The decision was issued in the combined cases Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In Bostock, child welfare advocate Gerald Bostock was fired after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league, which resulted in disparaging comments from influential members of the community. In Altitude Express, skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda was fired mere days after he mentioned that he was gay, and in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Aimee Stephens was fired after she told her employer that she planned to live and work full time as a woman.
In the Court’s opinion, Gorsuch said the Title VII is clear, and straightforward, and that that an employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual based in part on sex, protections which the Court has now expanded to members of the LGBTQIA community. Gorsuch also said that it isn’t a defense for the employer to say it fires all male and female employees who are homosexual or transgender, Gorsuch said.
This long overdue decision by the Supreme Court finally affords LGBTQIA employees the rights and protections they deserve under Title VII.
The the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we can only hope that this new found protection for the LGBTQIA community does not get overturned.