The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Christian funeral home could not fire a transgender worker who refused to dress according to the dress code for his biological sex because he had begun identifying as a woman.
The court offered a 6-3 decision that the existing statute against discrimination on the basis of sex applied to gender identity and sexual orientation, a break from past application.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch both agreed with the four left-leaning justices, while Alito, Thomas and Kavanaugh dissented.
The ruling will change Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include sexual identity and sexual orientation as categories protected from discrimination. Because of this change, Justices Alito and Thomas said that the ruling was “legislation” rather than an interpretation of existing law.
Amending the law, not interpreting it
Alito wrote that the ruling “amended” the existing law by changing its interpretation to one that had not been intended in the original, which was written in 1964.
Kavanaugh agreed, saying that he agrees with the spirit of the ruling but that it went beyond the court’s role, which is only to interpret the law.
Gay and transgender rights groups hailed the ruling, saying it would give them protection against being “married on Sunday, fired on Monday.” But will it force employers with specific religious beliefs to violate their beliefs and their consciences?
Gorsuch said that the ruling would have implications for religious employers, but that those would have to be settled in future cases, The Hill reported. Theoretically, under this ruling, a church would be unable to fire a pastor or other staff member who revealed after being hired that he or she was homosexual or transgender.
Several cases combined
The ruling combined several cases of a similar nature where LGBT individuals were fired after it was revealed or discovered that they were gay or transgender.
The transgender woman in the suit, Aimee Stephens, died last month from kidney failure at age 59. Stephens did get to see the Supreme Court argue her case in October, The Hill said.
In a statement recorded before her death, Stephens said, “I am thankful that the Court said my transgender siblings and I have a place in our laws — it made me feel safer and more included in society.”
Let’s hope this and future Supreme Court opinions don’t have the opposite effect on religious employers and institutions.