Does the 1964 Civil Rights Acts Apply to LGBTQ Employees?

The 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids the termination or hiring of an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality. The one element that is being questioned is whether or not the term “sex” can apply to sexual orientation or gender identity.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard three separate cases concerning this issue.

Defendants Claim Their Firing Was Discriminatory

Three different defendants presented their cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in which they claim they were fired for being either homosexual or transgender.

    1. Gerald Bostock, a child welfare coordinator for the juvenile court system in Georgia claimed he was fired once his employer found out that he had joined a homosexual men’s softball league. He was proud to stand before the judges and plead his case.“It’s exciting, of course, but at the same time… it’s very surreal,” Bostock said. “…This is such an issue of national importance. And it impacts so many people, millions and millions of people, and somebody needed to stand up and face this head-on.”
    2. Don Zarda, a skydiving instructor, claimed he was fired for being gay. In order to put a female student at ease concerning physical contact during a tandem jump, Zarda told the student he was gay. The student told her boyfriend about the incident and he called Zarda’s boss to complain.The owner of the skydiving facility explained why Zarda was fired. “It’s not about gay. It’s about your personal life, talking to people about it,” he said. The owner mentioned that he fired Zarda because of the complaint.
    3. Aimee Stephens worked at R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes as a director and was let go after she revealed that she was transgender. Her employer said she was fired because of a dress code violation in which suits are required for men.

Supreme Court Ruling Requires Five Votes

Gabriel Arkles, Senior Staff Attorney at the American Civil Rights Union (ACLU), represented Aimee Stephens at the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday. He seems to be optimistic about the ruling that can come as early as January or as late as June.

He feels confident that the four liberal judges will undoubtedly vote in favor of the LGBTQ interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The swing vote looks like it’s in the hands of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Arkles said, “Justice Gorsuch certainly implied that he thought our textual argument carried some weight and that it was at least possible he will vote in favor of the employees.”

Regardless of the outcome, Arkles echoes the sentiment of his client Aimee Stephens:

“[T]he fact that we’re able to bring it forth and hear the case presented is a victory already. Regardless of whether it’s a favorable decision or not, we still have a lot of work to do. When this part’s over, we just work on the next issue, and work hard and keeping going.”