It was a surprise to many, even avid followers of the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday, in a 6-3 vote, the land’s highest court found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects the rights of gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination “because of sex.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had written landmark opinions involving gay rights, including the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, retired and it was unknown whether any of the conservative members of the Court would take up his mantle. Justice Neil Gorsuch stepped up and wrote the opinion, joined by another conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts, and all of the liberal members of the Court. Not surprisingly, Justices Kavanaugh, Alito and Thomas dissented.
Back in 1964, when the Civil Rights Act passed, a segregationist in Congress proposed adding sex discrimination, “because of sex,” to the bill covering race, creed and religion, perhaps thinking it would result in the bill being defeated. It did not, and it took the Court more than fifty years to rule that Title VII also protects gay and transgender workers. Conservative groups are attacking Justice Gorsuch, claiming he enabled the Supreme Court to legislate and read into the law based on current sentiments and not what was intended years ago when the law was adopted.
This is a monumental decision for many parts of the country. New Jersey, however, has protected gay rights for years under its Law Against Discrimination.
Anyone having any questions concerning discrimination in the workplace should contact Steven I. Adler, Co-Chair of the Firm’s Employment Law and Litigation Departments.