Workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people has become forbidden in the US, following a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court.
The court decided in a 6-3 ruling that LGBT+ people are included in a provision under a civil rights law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees for their sex, race, colour, national origin and religion.
The move on Monday is expected to have a huge impact on the country’s estimated 8.1 million LGBT+ workers – and is the biggest ruling for such rights in the US since same-sex marriage was legalised in 2015.
During the administration of former president Barack Obama, discrimination claims brought by LGBT+ workers were generally supported under the same civil rights law provision – named Title VII.
This changed course when Donald Trump came into power in January 2017.
The word “sex” in the provision became the biggest battleground in the legal case, as the law does not specifically define protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.
In his ruling, Justice Neil Gorsuch said: “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.
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“Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
But the three dissenting judges said it was “preposterous” to argue that the court was merely enforcing what was already included in the wording of the provision.
Justice Samuel Alito added: “Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity’.”
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The move has been welcomed among LGBT+ groups and activists, who say it is a victory for gay and trans rights.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said it was a “landmark victory for LGBTQ equality”.
He added: “We cannot and should not go back to a time when people felt they had to hide who they are in order to feel safe at work.”
Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was sacked from her job in 2007 when she came out as trans, said she cried upon hearing the ruling – describing it as “a win” for Americans.