Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ Workers Can't Be Fired or Face Job Discrimination Over Their Identity
A number of celebrities celebrated the news
In a landmark decision on Monday, the Supreme Court voted six-to-three in favor of giving LGBTQ people federal protection against workplace discrimination.
The conservative-leaning court saw Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. join the court's liberal wing — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — in voting to protect LGBTQ people under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The ruling means the Supreme Court voted expanded Title VII of the act, which barred sex discrimination in the workplace. Since 1964, that portion of the law had been interpreted only to bar discrimination between men and women.
That law will now be expanded to protect LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented, according to the Associated Press.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote, according to The Washington Post. “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.”
"We still have a long way to go to reach equality, but this is a beautiful step forward," Taylor Swift wrote while thanking the Supreme Court for its ruling.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David called the Supreme Court's decision a "landmark victory for LGBTQ equality” in a statement to PEOPLE on Monday.
“No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love," David said.
James Esseks, the director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, also told the Post the decision was a "huge victory" for the LGBTQ community.
“The Supreme Court’s clarification that it’s unlawful to fire people because they’re LGBTQ is the result of decades of advocates fighting for our rights," Esseks said. "The court has caught up to the majority of our country, which already knows that discriminating against LGBTQ people is both unfair and against the law.”
Kavanaugh was one of the three justices who dissented, saying it was Congress' role to include LGBTQ people within the country's anti-discrimination workplace laws and arguing that the court was changing the law instead of interpreting it.
Still, Kavanaugh acknowledged Monday that the court's ruling was an “important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans," the AP reports.
Though the court's decision Monday will expand employee protections to include LGBTQ people, there are still a number of sex and gender discrimination cases the court may hear in the future — including same-sex bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as deciding whether transgender athletes are allowed to participate in school sports.
“But none of these other laws are before us; we have not had the benefit of adversarial testing about the meaning of their terms, and we do not prejudge any such question today,” Gorsuch wrote Monday.
David, the HRC president, said that the latest Supreme Court decision could possibly have a bigger impact on the LGBTQ community than the 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.
"This ruling will affect millions of LGBTQ people, possibly in a more profound way than marriage equality, because it is inclusive of the entire LGBTQ community," he said. "Not all of us are looking to marry, but the vast majority of us work and need to be free from the threat of discrimination in the workplace. That’s why this matters.”
Monday's ruling comes after the Trump administration removed medical protections for transgender patients in facing discrimination from healthcare providers on Friday.
While the Supreme Court's Monday ruling was widely celebrated, equal rights proponents like David said "there is still work left to be done."
"In many aspects of the public square, LGBTQ people still lack non-discrimination protections," David said, "which is why it is crucial that Congress pass the Equality Act to address the significant gaps in federal civil rights laws and improve protections for everyone.”