Supreme Court Rules Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Transgender Status is Illegal Under Title VII

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that existing federal law prohibits job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status. In a 6-3 vote, the Court decided that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, also encompasses LGBTQ workers. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who delivered the majority opinion for the Court, wrote: “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.” Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented. Their main argument is that to get to this result, Congress needed to amend Title VII to allow such protections to LGBTQ workers as they interpreted Title VII more narrowly as the term “sex” meant gender and not sexual orientation.

Almost half of the states—21in total—have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status, while seven others provide that protection only to public employees. In a major victory for the LBGTQ community, the Supreme Court’s ruling means that federal law now extends that protection to the entire country. Bottom line: employers who were treating LBGTQ employees or job applicants differently, no longer can under Title VII.