Supreme Court reviews case on discrimination based on sexual orientation

Maggie Inglesby, Staff Writer

By Maggie Inglesby

The Supreme Court returned to begin hearing cases in early October, after a three-month absence. The court will review several cases of great importance this session, but the one that has significantly grabbed public attention is the case regarding the civil rights protections of gay and trans people. This case was first presented on Tuesday, Oct. 8, but few people know all the details. I will attempt to examine the facts and the potential impacts of each decision. 

The cases in review are Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda, and Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They were brought to the court by two gay men and a transgender woman who state they were fired because of their sexuality or gender identity. This case will examine Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, and if it applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

I would argue yes, although the debate concerns whether or not the Supreme Court will broadly interpret “sex” to include sexual orientation. My position is that the law definitely protects transgender people because it specifically says that discrimination based on sex is barred. I would further argue that it should be interpreted to include sexual orientation, but if the conservative majority on the Supreme Court rules against it, change would be necessary to implement laws on the state level to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination.

The judge whose vote is most in question is Justice Neil Gorsuch who, while in the conservative majority, interprets laws passed by Congress as well. This means he would not just decide that since this issue is not explicitly discussed in the Constitution, that the Supreme Court has little say. The Supreme Court only hears cases that it feels are of national importance, and often deal with human rights questions. This is why this case has been brought to the Justices in the first place. Twenty-three states and D.C already have laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but the fear is that if there is no law on the national level, that this discriminiation will continue to occur in the states without those laws.

The decision will not be announced until June, but we should not let this become a back burner issue. Furthermore, this also comes two months after the controversial transgender military ban went into effect. This ban is not an across-the-board ban, but rather a policy similar to “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the ’90s. Transgender people and those with a gender identity other than the one they were assigned at birth will not be required to leave the military, but they will be prevented from enlisting in the future. 

The rights of our country’s LGBTQ+ population are being attacked, and for a country that prides itself on equality and freedom, we are not working hard enough to ensure those rights for our citizens. The Declaration of Independence that people love to bring up says that there are “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” but this shows the hypocrisy of American freedom. While citizens have little say over the Supreme Court decision, we must remember that all people are people and that we cannot infringe on their rights and personal freedoms if we still want to be the “land of the free” that we pride ourselves on being.