by Christian Knuth
Of all people, the strictly conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Donald Trump, today announced the decision of the US Supreme Court that employees may not be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A milestone.
Because of the shift in the balance of power between liberal and conservative judges in the Supreme Court, queer activists had feared the worst. The joy is all the greater today in the US, where from now on employees* are also protected against discrimination in half of the country, where there were no such laws in the states before.
“The homosexuality or transgender status of a person is not relevant to employment decisions. This is because it is impossible to discriminate against a person as homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that person on the basis of his or her sex,” Neil Gorsuch wrote in the reasons for the judgement.
In addition to Gorsuch, the conservative judge John Roberts and the four members of the liberal wing of the court, judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted for this reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, while judges Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh disagreed.
The cases dealt with by the Supreme Court are the claims of three queer people who felt discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of their sex or sexual orientation:
In the first case, the now deceased Donald Zarda accuses his employer of having fired him because of his homosexuality. Zarda’s partner William Moore and his relatives continue the case on his behalf.
The second case concerns the action brought by Gerald Lynn Bostock. His employer, a child welfare institution in Georgia, had fired Bostock after his membership in an LGBTIQ* softball team became public.
The third case is based on the complaint of Trans* woman Aimee Stephens. Stephens was the director of a funeral home and was fired two weeks after she revealed her true gender identity to her employer.
They had sued against their dismissals by invoking the Civil Rights Act. And rightly so, as the court has now – relatively surprisingly – decided.
The surprising reasoning of the Trump judge Gorsuch
The Cicvil Rights Act protects employees against discrimination on the basis of gender, race, colour, origin or religion. In April last year the Supreme Court announced that it would make the first queer landmark ruling in this case after the decision to open marriage for same-sex couples.
The government of President Donald Trump stated at the beginning of the Supreme Court proceedings last October that Article VII of the Civil Rights Act did not cover “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”. All the more positively surprising are the words of judge Neil Gorsuch now:
“Those who passed the Civil Rights Act may not have expected that their law would lead to this particular result. They probably did not think about many of the consequences of the law that have been shown over the years, including the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of maternity or the prohibition of sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the authors’ imagination offer no reason to ignore the words of the law.”
A truly great day for the LGBTIQ* civil rights movement in the US and for all LGBTIQ*.
- supreme-court-546279_1280: By Pixabay / skeeze / CC0
- Donald_Trump_with_Neil_Gorsuch_01-31-17: The White House / CC0
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