Supreme Court Surprise

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday (June 15, 2020) that a landmark federal civil rights law from the 1960s now protects gay and transgender workers.

The transgender case was brought by a person named Stephens, who worked for years at a Michigan funeral home before being fired after informing the owners of a gender transition. The funeral home did not believe it was in their interest to have a transgender employee. Stephens died of kidney failure in May, after seeing the case argued at the Supreme Court in October.

Providing the real surprise was its author, Justice Gorsuch who was President Trump’s first choice for the high court.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., joined the court’s liberals in the 6-to-3 ruling. They said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex”, includes gay and transgender employees.

But the 52-year-old Justice from Colorado signaled during oral arguments that he thought the text of the law – “because of sex” – favored the plaintiffs’ interpretation.

“We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would have not questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Many conservatives were appalled by the decision, including some who had worked the hardest for Gorsuch’s confirmation.

This ruling illustrates the difficulty of predicting how the independent-minded United States Supreme Court will rule.

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