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Adam McDonald
June 22, 2020
US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court delivers landmark decision in favour of LGBTQ employees

US Supreme Court delivers landmark decision in favour of LGBTQ employees

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the prohibition of discrimination in employment “because of sex” in the Civil Rights Act 1964 protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

With a conservative-stacked bench, the 6-3 ruling in Bostock v Clayton County, Georgia came as a surprise, and is an important victory for LGBTQ employees in the United States.

Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch penned the majority decision.  He set out the Court’s view that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited by the plain words of the statute.

The decision involved three separate proceedings.  Each entailed an employer firing a long-standing employee soon after they revealed that they were homosexual or transgender.  Plaintiff Gerald Bostock worked for Clayton County, Georgia for a decade but was dismissed when he began playing in a gay recreational softball league. Donald Zarda was a New York-based skydiving instructor who was fired days after mentioning he was gay.  Aimee Stephens, who identified and presented as male upon being hired by a Michigan Funeral Home was immediately fired, in her sixth year with the company, when she notified her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman”.

The majority reasoned that an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or behaviours that it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex therefore plays a “necessary and undisguisable” role in the decision — rendering it unlawful.

The decision drew two dissents.  Both accused the Court of usurping the legislative process. Justices Alito and Thomas were particularly trenchant,describing the majority view as breathtakingly arrogant and accusing the Court of “flying a textualist flag” while effectively re-writing the statute.  

The Supreme Court’s ruling is a welcome step forward for US rights jurisprudence.

The decision can be found here