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Supreme Court Rules Federal Law Protects LGBTQ+ Employees from Discrimination

Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur: “Because of today’s ruling, no hard-working LGBTQ+ employee in the United States can be legally fired from their job and lose the ability to take care of their family because of who they are or whom they love."

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer+ (LGBTQ+) employees are protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court’s 6-3 opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, makes clear that no one in the United States can be fired or otherwise discriminated against by an employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“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,” wrote Gorsuch for the Court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur:

“In this time of crisis and uncertainty, we are moved by today’s Supreme Court decision to affirm that LGBTQ+ workers are indeed protected from discrimination under federal law. This is truly a watershed moment for our movement, building on the progress we’ve made here in the Golden State to protect all LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.

“Because of today’s ruling, no hard-working LGBTQ+ employee in the United States can be legally fired from their job and lose the ability to take care of their family because of who they are or whom they love.

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“However, our work is not done. We will continue to advocate for comprehensive federal non-discrimination laws like the Equality Act, which is currently sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk. LGBTQ+ Americans should be fully protected from discrimination and treated fairly under the law — in California and in every other state in the nation.”

Justice Gorsuch continued for the Court:

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

On July 10, 2019, Equality California and 18 other LGBTQ+ civil rights organizations filed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief supporting the employees in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Equality California spokespeople are available for interviews and commentary related to today’s Supreme Court decisions. Please contact Samuel Garrett-Pate at sam@eqca.org or (973) 476-3770. 

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Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.

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