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SCOTUS to decide if Title VII discrimination protection extends to LGBTQ+

October 18th, 2019 by David Minces

In the coming months, the Supreme Court of the United States will decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers.

The current composition of the court makes the anticipated outcome hard to predict. At the moment, there are four judges appointed by a Democratic president, and five appointed by a Republican president, with one of the five (Chief Justice Roberts) considered the ideological center of the court. While the judicial system is supposed to be above party politics, there are some safe generalizations. In general, judges appointed by Republican Presidents tend be strict in their interpretation of the law, and judges appointed by Presidents who are Democrats tend to advocate broader, less strict interpretations.

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What is clearly covered by Title VII under any reading of the law is discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Soon, the Court will decide whether Title VII also extends to sexual orientation and gender identity, and that determination will depend largely on how strictly and narrowly the Court construes the statute.

In the past, some courts have held that this type of discrimination is exactly what Title VII protects: discrimination because of sex. Is it discrimination to fire a man for entering in a relationship with another man when a woman would have not been fired for entering a relationship with a man? Or to fire a transgender individual because they have changed their gender? Whatever the case decides, the result will affect employers across the country.

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