news

US Supreme Court rules employers can't fire people for being LGBTQ

The landmark ruling has been described as a "watershed moment".

2020-06-15

The US Supreme Court has ruled that employers cannot discriminate on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation, in a judgement that's been heralded as a "watershed moment for equality and fairness" in the United States.

Supreme Court judges ruled 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex, also applies to LGBTQ workers on the basis of their sexuality and gender identiy.

The court had heard three cases - one involving a trans woman and two others involving gay men - where the complainants had been fired because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who co-authored the majority opinion, wrote: "Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender.

"The answer is clear. 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."

The ruling is the biggest legal victory for the LGBTQ community in the US since the Supreme Court ruled in favour of nationwide marriage equality in 2015.

Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said: "At this most challenging time for our community, the country and the world, it is heartening to see the Court decision bolstering fairness and equality in this country by affirming that LGBTQ+ people are protected from employment discrimination under federal law.

"Every person celebrating this ruling has decades of work by Black and Brown trans members of our community, in particular, to thank for the ability to work free from discrimination.

"And while this is a watershed moment for fairness and equality our struggle for LGBTQ liberation, we still have work to do."

Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, said in a statement: "This landmark decision will save lives."

He continued: "At The Trevor Project, we hear from LGBTQ youth every day who suffer from discrimination and harassment, and our research demonstrates that those who experienced LGBTQ-based workplace discrimination were twice as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year compared to those who did not.

"By recognizing that LGBTQ workers cannot be discriminated against because of who they are, the Supreme Court has sent a resounding message to LGBTQ youth everywhere that they are free to pursue their talents and dreams."

There is plenty more work to do, however: the landmark ruling comes just days after the Trump adminstration announced it was rolling back anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in healthcare. Click here to read more.