Workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender, the Supreme Court of the United States said in a landmark ruling Monday, the midpoint of Pride Month.
The ruling is historic because there has been no federal law that protected workers from being fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That was left up to states to decide. But fewer than half of the states offer such protections.
The 6-3 decision brought two conservative judges — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch — to the side of the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were the minority votes.
In the decision, Gorsuch wrote, “An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
Many conservatives criticized the decision and questioned why Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, would side with liberals. Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network called it, “an ominous sign for anyone concerned about the future of representative democracy.”
The Trump administration has been no friend to the LGBTQ community, moving to ban transgender service members and, just two days prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, overturning Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care.
Trump remained mum most of the day about the decision before ultimately telling reporters, “Well, they’ve ruled. I’ve read the decision. And some people were surprised. But they’ve ruled, and we live with their decision: that’s what it’s all about. We live with the decision of the Supreme Court. Very powerful. A very powerful decision, actually. But they have so ruled.”
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was quick to issue a statement, calling the decision a “momentous step forward for our country. Before today, in more than half of states, LGBTQ+ people could get married one day and be fired from their job the next day under state law, simply because of who they are or who they love,” he said. “Happy Pride!”
If you feel you have been discriminated or fired from your job based on your gender or sexual orientation, we are here to help. Contact Beasley Allen attorneys Larry Golston, Lauren Miles and Leon Hampton for a free consultation.