Supreme Court agrees to hear whether federal law bars anti-LGBTQ discrimination

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed hear cases seeking to determine once-and-for-all if anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace is prohibited under federal law.

In its orders list on Monday, the court announced it has granted certiorari in response to three separate petitions seeking clarification on whether Title VII of Civil Rights of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workplace, applies to cases of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Two of the petitions — the filings for the cases of Zarda v. Altitude Express and Bostock v. Clayton County — sought clarification on whether Title VII applies to cases of sexual-orientation discrimination. The other petition — a filing in the case of Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC — seeks clarification on whether Title VII applies to anti-transgender discrimination.

Because the court decided to grant certiorari in April, the court will be unable to reach a conclusion by the time it adjourns for this term in June. The decision will have to wait until the next term, which means a ruling may not happen until June 2020.

The petitions have been pending before the court for some time. The court grants certiorari the week after the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held arguments in the case of Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management on whether Title VII covers sexual-orientation discrimination.

The Trump administration has already asserted LGBTQ workers aren’t entitled to non-discrimination protections under Title VII. The U.S. Justice Department argued Title VII shouldn’t apply to cases of sexual-orientation discrimination before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Zarda case and file a brief before the Supreme Court arguing the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly decided Title VII applies to cases of anti-transgender discrimination in the Harris case.

But the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. agency charged with enforcing federal civil rights laws, has continued to argue Title VII applies to LGBTQ workers in the Trump administration. Last week, the EEOC sent a lawyer to participate in oral arguments in the Horton before the Eighth Circuit to assert those protections apply to cases of anti-gay discrimination.

It remains to be seen what decision the Supreme Court will reach. The cases reach the Supreme Court after Trump has remade the bench with the appointments of U.S. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. LGBTQ groups, fearing the appointments would be hostile to LGBTQ rights, opposed the confirmation of both justices.

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