A U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting gay and trans people from discrimination at work was hailed on Monday as the most significant moment in the fight for LGBT+ rights in the United States since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015.
In a 6-3 decision, the nation’s top court decided gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, colour, national origin and religion.
“No trans people and no lesbian or gay people can ever be fired or discriminated against for being gay or transgender – that’s the immutable law of the land now,” said Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired in 2007 when she came out as a trans woman.
“This is a win for all Americans,” Glenn told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding she was in tears upon hearing of the court’s ruling.
Currently more than half of LGBT+ Americans live in states without explicit workplace protections, according to U.S. think tank Movement Advancement Project, meaning they could be fired or harassed for being gay or trans with little legal recourse.
Gerald Bostock, a Georgia man who lost his job as a child welfare services coordinator after joining a gay recreational softball team, said there were “truly no words to describe just how elated I am” after hearing of the ruling.
“When I was fired seven years ago, I was devastated,” he said in a statement. “Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love.”
Bostock’s case was one of three addressed in the court decision.
In the ruling, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote: “In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee.
“We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”
The court‘s ruling comes days after the administration of President Donald Trump announced a rollback of guidance implemented under President Barack Obama to protect trans people from discrimination in healthcare.
“The Supreme Court‘s simple yet profound recognition that sex discrimination law protects LGBT employees is another important marker on the long path toward greater equality and justice for all,” said Suzanne Goldberg of Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.
Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man challenging a U.S. ban on trans people serving in the military, also hailed the ruling.
“I know what it’s like to be told I can’t do a job I’m qualified for just because I’m transgender,” he said in a statement.
“Especially now when so many have lost jobs and are struggling, the last thing we should be doing is erecting barriers that keep people who want to work and contribute from doing so.