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NEW YORK — The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers are protected from employment discrimination by federal law. Monday’s 6-3 ruling found that firing an employee for being gay or transgender violates Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
According to Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, the decision, written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, illustrates how the plain meaning of the law which bans discrimination based on sex clearly includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
“It is really one that is faithful to the text, a roadmap that we laid out for the courts over the years, and we’re ecstatic at this decision,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.
The dissenting justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, held that Title 7 only applies to discrimination based on gender, not sexual orientation or gender identity.
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Gonzalez-Pagan said the ruling will have implications for how other laws are interpreted. That includes last Friday’s announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that it will reverse a rule prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in health care.
“We have the backup of the Supreme Court for our argument that that rule is not rooted in the law,” he said. “And now it will be that much easier for us to get that rule overturned.”
Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union have announced they will be challenging the new HHS rule in court as soon as it is published, which is scheduled for this Friday.
Gonzalez-Pagan noted two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits covered by the Supreme Court ruling – Donald Zarda, a gay man fired from a skydiving school, and Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman fired from a funeral home – died before Monday’s ruling was handed down.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. “But at least today their sacrifice will help protect many, many, many, many people from discrimination moving forward.”
The Trump administration had sided with the employers in the court cases.