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A Big Supreme Court Win for LGBT Folks, and Especially Transgender Persons

Updated: May 20

The LGBTQ+ community is celebrating a long-overdue victory after the release of a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday. Finally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extends to protect people who are discriminated at work due to their gender or sexual orientation. Before the decision came down, it was legal to fire a person simply because they are LGBT, and for no other reason.

Not anymore.

In a surprise turn, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the remaining four progressive justices.

Justice Gorsuch explains the court’s reasoning:

There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making.”

The ruling was based on three separate discrimination cases: a skydiving instructor who was fired for being gay, a social worker who was terminated after joining a gay softball league, and a case, brought by Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job as a funeral director for being a transgender woman.

Unfortunately, Aimee Stephens did not live to see the groundbreaking legacy she left behind, as she passed in May of this year. In 2013, Aimee told her co-workers in confidence that she had struggled with oppression around her gender identity and was a transgender woman. After coming out to her co-workers, she was fired from her role as a director of a funeral home. Her former boss testified that the sole reason she was fired was that Aimee came out as transgender. Her courage in coming forward and fighting on behalf of transgender workers, one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in the country, will live on in this historic ruling.

This ruling is groundbreaking for a number of reasons. While twenty-two states already have statutes protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, LGBT employees in more conservative states have been left in fear of their careers for many years. And while many states do protect gay or lesbian people, many of those states do not have any or many laws protecting transgender people.

The Court’s decision will finally provide gay and transgender workers a long-overdue sense of security when they experience illegal discrimination at work.

In such turbulent times of division, this was a much-needed win for equality. The Supreme Court’s decision opens the door for many of those most vulnerable to discrimination to feel some power to advocate for change.

If you have experienced discrimination in your workplace due to sexual orientation or gender identity, please contact the employment team at the Gomerman | Bourn & Associates, a diverse and LGBT inclusive workspace. Call (415) 545-8608 to speak with an attorney regarding your case.

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