In the middle of Pride month, with a president who consistently attacks the rights of LGBTQ people, one of the biggest advances in LGBTQ rights was decided by the Supreme Court. According to their ruling June 15, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides legal protection for members of the LGBTQ community from workplace discrimination. Under Title VII, discrimination based on “sex” is prohibited and — thanks to the 6-3 vote of the Supreme Court — discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity falls under that category.
Opponents to the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals under Title VII cite that when it was enacted, the rights of LGBTQ people were not a consideration and are not typically classified under the term “sex.”
According to the published findings of the court, the term “sex” applies in the cases of sexual orientation and gender expression, stating, “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. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision; exactly what Title VII forbids.”
This ruling comes at a time when LGBTQ rights have been under fire from the current administration. Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services deemed that the previous interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting healthcare discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and sex was not to be upheld, and that the use of “sex” does not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Essentially, this decision would make it legal to refuse treatment to a patient based solely on their LGBTQ status.
Only three days after the HHS decision came the Supreme Court’s ruling on Title VII. It is unclear as of now what outcome the Supreme Court’s ruling will have on the reversal of policy enacted by the HHS, but it certainly calls that action into question, especially since the interpretation of the term “sex” was key to the decision making in both instances.
Not only does the Supreme Court ruling call into question the actions of the Trump administration, but it also marks a historic win for the rights of LGBTQ people in the United States. The 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage was huge, but as New York Times editor Spencer Bokat-Lindell summarizes in his opinion piece on the recent court ruling, “Only some queer people get married, but almost all of them work.”
The effects of this decision are far reaching and hit home right here at Illinois State University. LGBTQ students who are looking for work after graduation now have this ruling to back them up. The Title VII decision will allow them to work in any state without worrying about their right to employment.
Since the beginning of President Donald Trump’s administration, LGBTQ activists have fought to maintain and further the rights of their community. Amid all the hardships this country is facing to uphold the rights of citizens over the decisions of a less-than-progressive leader, this Supreme Court ruling serves as a beacon of hope for continuing change and increased civil rights for all Americans.