- Title: U.S. Supreme Court divided over gay, transgender employment protection
- Date: 8th October 2019
- Summary: DEMONSTRATORS SINGING REVISED VERSION OF 'GOD BLESS AMERICA'
- Embargoed: 22nd October 2019 18:46
- Keywords: Supreme Court Gay transgender rights Aimee Stephens Thomas Rost
- Location: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- City: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Judicial Process/Court Cases/Court Decisions
- Reuters ID: LVA004B08NMF7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday (October 8) appeared divided over whether a landmark decades-old federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace protects gay and lesbian employees as they heard arguments in one of the biggest cases of their current term.
The second of two oral arguments, focusing on whether transgender workers are protected under the same law.
The court's 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices - Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - appointed by President Donald Trump, whose administration has argued that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT rights activists held a demonstration near the courthouse as the arguments took place. The arguments were held on the second day of the court's new nine-month term.
The legal fight focuses on the definition of "sex" in Title VII. The plaintiffs, along with civil rights groups and many large companies, have argued that discriminating against gay and transgender workers is inherently based on their sex and consequently is illegal.
A couple of hundred demonstrators advocating for LGBT rights gathered a short distance from the white marble courthouse on an overcast day in the U.S. capital. They chanted for equal rights and held signs including ones that read, "Do fire Trump. Don't fire LGBTQ workers," "Discrimination is bad for business" and "LGBT Americans power our economy."
A small group of demonstrators opposing gay and transgender rights also was present holding signs including two that read, "Fear God" and "Sin and shame, not pride."
A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would give gay and transgender workers greater protections, especially in the 28 U.S. states that do not already have comprehensive measures against employment discrimination. A ruling against the plaintiffs would mean gay and transgender people in those states would have few options to challenge workplace discrimination.
The court heard two cases about gay people who have said they were fired due to their sexual orientation. One involves a Detroit funeral home's bid to reverse a lower court ruling that it violated Title VII by firing a transgender funeral director named Aimee Stephens after Stephens revealed plans to transition from male to female. Another case involves a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia named Gerald Bostock. The last case, a New York skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda, who died after the case began and the matter is being pursued by his estate.
Liberal justices signaled sympathy toward arguments that gay workers are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.
Some conservative justices expressed reservations toward extending protection to gay employees. However, one of them, Justice Neil Gorsuch, asked questions of both sides indicating potential sympathy for the workers. When analyzing whether a person was fired on the basis of sexual orientation, Gorsuch said sex seemed to be a "contributing cause."
Rulings in the cases are due by the end of June.
(Production: Kevin Fogarty, Gershon Peaks, Kia Johnson)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Audio restrictions: This clip's Audio includes copyrighted material. User is responsible for obtaining additional clearances before publishing the audio contained in this clip.