GSBA – US Supreme Court rules civil rights law protects LGBTQ workers

by Matt Landers
GSBA Director of Public Policy & Government Relations

SEATTLE – This morning, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting LGBTQ workers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The National Center for Transgender Equality describes the cases as follows:

“All three cases decided today by the highest court in the land address discrimination in the workplace. In Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, was fired when she transitioned on the job. The Court has declared, once and for all, that discrimination against transgender people is unlawful, and that their decision applies across the country. This ruling is truly historic.

“Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, are both cases where gay employees were fired simply because of their sexual orientation. [In today’s] decision, Justice Gorsuch wrote for the Court that ‘In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.'”

This ruling should also provide clear guidance to overrule the Trump administration’s rollback of trans healthcare protections from last week, although further legal challenges will be necessary to end the administration’s actions.

We are thankful that Washington state has had strong anti-discrimination protections since 2006, and we are proud that the rest of the country is making progress on catching up. We still need Congress to catch up with the Supreme Court and the overwhelming majority of Americans and pass full federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in other areas like housing, education, credit, jury service, and public spaces. We have more work to do to cement these gains, and to make sure that these protections make a difference in the lives of all Americans, but it also feels good to celebrate progress in this moment.

While celebrating this decision, it is almost important to recognize that the Civil Rights Act itself has clearly not ended discrimination toward any group, especially black people. Recognition in the law alone is not enough to safeguard many in our community. The legal rights of all LGBTQ people won’t be secure until we end the systemic ways that racism not only oppresses black people and other people of color – economically, socially, and in the voting booth. We must help people, including within our own community, understand that ending systemic racism is about dismantling systems that also harm all LGBTQ+ people.

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