In a tremendous decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that workplace civil-rights protections extend to gay and transgender people.
The 6-3 decision is a landmark ruling. It reflects progress society has made in the last decade to provide equal rights regardless of gender and sexuality.
Yet this evolution remains uneven and incomplete. The decision, interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, comes as the nation grapples with continuing unequal treatment of people of color despite promises of that act, other laws and the Constitution.
Much work also remains to fully extend anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender people.
Monday’s ruling clarified that in employment settings, rules against sex discrimination aren’t limited to discrimination for being a woman or a man.
“When an employer fires an employee for being homosexual or transgender, it necessarily intentionally discriminates against that individual in part because of sex,” states the decision. It was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017.
That should send a strong message to those clinging to narrower definitions of who deserves protection under other laws and policies.
Last week the Trump administration, in its latest attack on equal protection, removed a barrier to health-care discrimination against transgender people. It did so by narrowing the definition of who deserves protection from sex discrimination under the Affordable Care Act.
That’s rightly being challenged by the ACLU, which also represented plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case.
“The Affordable Care Act also prohibits discrimination because of sex, and Trump cannot rewrite the statute or overrule the Supreme Court,” Gabriel Arkles, ACLU senior staff attorney, said in a statement.
Monday’s decision is also a “powerful reaffirmation of the rule of law and the idea that there are some objective truths out there,” said Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat in the Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus.
“It really is a welcome respite to have something that’s good for people, good for the rule of law, good to illustrate the whole government isn’t broken, and the courts can get something right,” he told this editorial board.
Truly, it’s time to end culture wars over who deserves protection from discrimination. Everyone deserves equal treatment, civil-rights protection, and access to public places and establishments.
One path forward is for Congress to pass the Equality Act, which broadly prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. It passed the House last year then stalled in the Senate. Among Washington’s delegation, Democrats voted yes and Republicans voted no.
Opponents should now reconsider and heed the wise words of Justice Gorsuch.