A recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court has advanced fairness in a way that, while it may have surprised some, is the just application of good sense to the issue of equality in the workplace.
The Supreme Court announced last week its decision effectively barring workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
The court decided by a 6-3 vote that protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits bias against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII is the part of the act that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The idea that an employer should not fire, harass or intimidate an employee for a characteristic that has no bearing on job performance seems like a simple enough concept. It is a workplace policy that many companies were following anyway, yet in 28 states, there were no laws to stop an employer from firing someone for their sexual preference or gender identity before the ruling. In Missouri, public employees were protected against discrimination based on sexual preference but not gender identity. Other workers had neither protection here.
Now employment protections are extended nationwide.
Respecting others and protecting their freedoms is the right thing, and the 6-3 majority on a conservative court is refreshing. It shows — in this case at least —that some justices were able to put human rights above partisanship.
It has been a long road from the Stonewall uprising in 1969 to today. Our society, despite upsets, backlash and setbacks, increasingly has moved to protect rights for those in the LGBT community. And that is the right thing — equal protection for all under the law.
As we have said before, LGBT individuals are members of our community. They live and work here just like everyone else. They spend their money here, pay taxes here and deserve the same protections as every other community member. They are our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, our relatives. We all should be glad this ruling protects the same access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness available to us all.