In an unexpected decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that gay and transgender individuals enjoy the full protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964. In a 6-3 decision, the High Court’s opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, swept aside all objections raised by the lengthy and passionate dissents, one by one, declaring that the language of the statute made this outcome “clear.” In what may well become the most oft-quoted passage from this Court, Gorsuch wrote:
“Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.”
This ruling will require over 20 states, which do not offer such protections, to bring their laws into compliance with the federal standard. Multi-jurisdictional employers will be especially pleased with this ruling, not only because it comports with their employment practices, but also because it now permits them to have a single employment standard throughout the US.
Although this decision addressed only the reach of Title VII, the language of many analogous federal laws is derived from Title VII and the interpretation and enforcement of those laws will likely have to be adjusted to comply with the new ruling.
The case can be found here.