The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Monday that an existing federal law protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
In a surprise ruling for the right-leaning court, which became more conservative with the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in granting broad federal job protection for LGBT employees in the case, called Bostock v. Clayton County.
The Monday decision considered Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, among other factors. The court ruled that the law also covers sexual orientation.
The Justice Department under President Donald Trump discouraged the Court from its ultimate conclusion, filing an amicus brief last fall that argued sex and sexual orientation are too dissimilar. It said, “The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation.”
It went on, “An employer thus discriminates ‘because of … sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
GLAAD, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, reacted with a statement from president & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis later Monday morning: “The Supreme Court’s historic decision affirms what shouldn’t have even been a debate: LGBTQ Americans should be able to work without fear of losing jobs because of who they are. The decision gives us hope that as a country we can unite for the common good and continue the fight for LGBTQ acceptance. Especially at a time when the Trump Administration is rolling back the rights of transgender people and anti-transgender violence continues to plague our nation, this decision is a step towards affirming the dignity of transgender people, and all LGBTQ people.”