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Supreme Court: Federal law protects LGBT workers from discrimination

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace.

In the 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts and conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s four liberals in the majority.

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “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.”

The Supreme Court was acting on three cases in which long-time employees were fired shortly after revealing they were homosexual or transgender. The employees filed civil lawsuits claiming the terminations violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex. The Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress in 1964.

“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee,” Gorsuch wrote. “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

In a statement, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the court’s decision reaffirms that civil rights belong to everyone, including the LGBTQ community.

“The Leadership Conference coordinated the legislative campaign to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and we are proud to see that historic law applied correctly,” Gupta said. “We know, however, that our fight to protect LGBTQ people must go on. There are still numerous gaps in our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and Congress must act now to pass full federal anti-discrimination protection laws, like the Equality Act, for all people.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said the court was legislating from the bench.

“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” Alito wrote. “The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”

Dan McCaleb, Executive Editor of the Center Square, is a veteran editor and has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Most recently, McCaleb served as editorial director of Shaw Media and the top editor of the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago.