On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling for LGBT rights. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 now also forbids discrimination against an employee due to gender identity or sexual orientation. Before the decision, some states had no anti-discrimination laws on the books for the LGBT community whereas others, like Colorado, already prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
What was surprising to many about the decision was that the opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch, President Trump’s conservative nominee. Also joining the decision was Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush nominee. Justice Gorsuch opined that, since Title VII forbids discrimination based on gender, it must necessarily extend to the LGBT community since discrimination against LGBT individuals would not occur if the person being targeted was the opposite gender.
Legal commentators say that the ruling is one of the most historic for the LGBT community, equaling only the 2015 same-sex marriage decision in importance. Some say this decision is even more significant than the decision allowing gay marriage since having a job is an absolute necessity. According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, there are approximately 1 million transgender employees in the workforce and 7.1 million who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
The enactment of federal law protecting the LGBT community will not improve workplaces overnight. Notwithstanding Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, which has existed for over a decade, many employers continue to victimize employees based on their LGBT status. Individuals who feel that they have been treated differently by their employers or terminated because they identify as LGBT may want to meet with an employment law attorney to see if their employers’ actions could justify initiating antidiscrimination claims.