A worker cannot be fired because he is gay or transgender: the United States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sex – but also on race, color, national origins and religion – it also applies to homosexuals and trans. The legal battle focused on the definition of sex and the judges gave an extensive interpretation regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
It is the biggest victory for the LGBTQ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015. Success that comes as America continues to take to the streets for other civil rights, those relating to racial justice after the death of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of the police.
The ruling, on the other hand, is a loud slap in the face of the President of the United States Donald Trump, who, courting the conservative vows of the evangelical Christians, had launched a crusade against the LGBT community since his inauguration. Just last week, his administration had decided to lift anti-discrimination protections for transgenders in health, reversing one of Barack Obama’s turning points. But previously his government had claimed the right of certain activities to refuse gay service on the basis of religious objections to same-sex weddings, banished trans men from military service and canceled the option for transgender students to choose the bathroom in public schools based on non-natural sex.
The slap also burns because the decision was made by a majority of six judges out of three, with President of the Court John Roberts and conservative judge Neil Gorsuch – appointed by Trump – who voted with the democratically appointed judges. And it was Gorsuch himself who wrote that “ours is a society of written laws. An employer who fires an individual purely for being gay or transgender defies the law”.
The reaction of Joe Biden, Trump’s rival in the race to the White House, was immediate: “Today’s decision is another step in our march towards equality for all. The Supreme Court confirmed the simple but deeply American idea that every human being must be treated with respect. But the work does not end there, “he said, promising that if he is elected president he will promulgate the Equality Act, protecting the civil rights of LGBT Americans.
Also applauded by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the first head of a large company to declare himself gay: “LGBT people deserve equal treatment in the workplace and in society. Today’s decision further highlights how federal law protect their right to equity. ”
“This is a historic victory for equality,” commented LGBTQ civil rights leader Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the first African American. “We cannot and must not go back to the time when people thought they had to hide who they were to feel safe in the workplace,” he added.
The ruling is also important because in the majority of the country, i.e. in 28 states out of 50, there are no explicit protections in the workplace, thus leaving gay and trans people exposed to the risk of being persecuted or fired without the possibility of appeal. The decision was made by addressing three cases of gay men laid off for their sexual orientation, in Georgia, Michigan and New York.