WASHINGTON • The US Supreme Court has delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights and a defeat for President Donald Trump’s administration by ruling that a longstanding federal law barring workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees.
Monday’s landmark 6-3 ruling is the biggest moment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the United States since the Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
Two conservatives joined four liberals in the court’s decision: Mr Neil Gorsuch, a 2017 Trump appointee who wrote the ruling, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
The justices decided that gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, colour, national origin and religion.
Workplace bias against gay and transgender employees had remained legal in much of the country, with 28 of the 50 states lacking comprehensive measures against employment discrimination.
The ruling – in two gay rights cases from Georgia and New York and a transgender rights case from Michigan – recognises new worker protections in federal law. The legal fight focused on the definition of “sex” in Title VII.
The court agreed with the plaintiffs that discriminating against gay and transgender workers was inherently based on their sex and consequently was illegal.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr Trump called the ruling very powerful and said: “They’ve ruled and we live with their decision.”
Supported by evangelical Christian voters, Mr Trump has taken actions that have undermined gay and transgender rights since coming to office in 2017. LGBT activists and the only surviving plaintiff in the litigation lauded the ruling.
“I truly believe I went into shock this morning,” said Mr Gerald Bostock, who brought the case in Georgia after losing his job as a county government child welfare services coordinator when he joined the local gay-friendly Hotlanta Softball League.
For conservative Christian groups, the ruling was not only the latest sign that they are losing the American culture wars over sexuality. The decision also caused widespread concern that it could affect how they operate their own institutions.