The Supreme Court ruled Monday LGBTQ workers are legally protected from discrimination.
The 6-3 decision permits lesbian, gay and transgender employees, if wrongfully terminated, to sue an employer for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Trump administration sued, arguing that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not go toward sexual orientation and gender identity.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who Republican President Donald Trump appointed to the court, wrote the opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts, another conservative member of the bench, ruled in favor with Gorsuch and four other justices – Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kegan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Sometimes small gestures can have unexpected consequences. Major initiatives practically guarantee them,” Gorsuch 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.”
According to a map by the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank that provides research on LGTBQ and other social topics, about two dozen states and the District of Columbia prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Now, 100& of LGBTQ people in the U.S. are protected from employment discrimination under federal law,” the Boulder, Colorado-based organization tweeted Monday.
Other supporters released statements after the decision.
“This morning’s ruling gives hope to the many Black queer and transgender people in the South, and in small rural and isolated communities, who have been shut out of employment opportunities because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement. “The ruling is significant and the Trump administration’s continued attacks on our communities and the recent murders of Dominique (Ree’mie) Fells and Riah Milton are sobering reminders of how much work there is left to do.”
Meanwhile, Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh dissented against their colleagues.
Alito wrote that the federal law changes should be made in Congress, not in the courts.
“The place to make new legislation … lies in Congress,” Alito wrote. “When it comes to statutory interpretation, our role is limited to applying the law’s demands as faithfully as we can in the cases that come before us. It is easy to utter such words. If only the Court would live by them.”
Kavanaugh also wrote a dissenting opinion.
“Instead of a hard-earned victory won through the democratic process, today’s victory is brought about by judicial dictate — judges latching on to a novel form of living literalism to rewrite ordinary meaning and remake American law,” he wrote.
The court’s decision was based on several separate cases, two of which involved plaintiffs who died before Monday’s ruling.
Gerald Bostock sued Clayton County, Georgia, after he was fired for “conduct unbecoming” because he joined a gay recreational softball league.
Donald Zarda worked as a skydiving instructor in New York and later told his employee he was gay. He was fired a few days later.
Zarda died, but a plaintiff representing his estate sued on his behalf.
Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who presented as a man for six years while working at a funeral home director in Garden City, Michigan, told her employer she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman” after returning from an upcoming vacation. However, she was fired and told “this is not going to work out.”
Stephens died last month.