Written By: Dakota Harbison (he, him, his) and Laura Noble (she, her, hers)
Whether you are an activist, ally, attorney, or member of the LGBTQ community, it is likely you feel the same exuberance and agony from the last seven years. The moments of overwhelming joy from the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold marriage equality in 2015, to the frustration of executive orders allowing for the discrimination of the LGBTQ community in health care settings in 2020. These changes have left us all with whiplash as we see protections appear and disappear, making progress slow. Now, nearly 56 years after the monumental passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Supreme Court gave the LGBTQ community something to cheer about. Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination on “the basis of sex.” For decades, lower federal courts were split on whether discriminating against an employee because of sexual orientation and gender identity was a form of sex discrimination. In this landmark civil rights decision, the Court makes it abundantly clear that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a prohibited form of discrimination “based on sex.”
The 6-3 decision was made possible because two conservative-leaning Justices crossed ideological lines to create a majority in favor of banning discrimination. Chief Justice John Roberts, and the opinion’s author Neil Gorsuch, recently appointed by the Trump administration, joined the four liberal justices to clarify that under Title VII, the LGBTQ community is entitled to workplace protections. The Trump administration and other conservative activists argued that the definition of sex-based discrimination that included sexual orientation and gender identity would be an impermissible expansion of what the 1964 legislators intended. Gorsuch shut down that argument in the opinion by stating, “… the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”
This decision is a particularly satisfying win for the North Carolina LGBTQ community. North Carolina is among the minority of states that does not have a state law prohibiting any form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. That means that if your employer fired you in North Carolina on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you had no legal remedy. While other states in recent years have provided protections to the LGBTQ community, North Carolina was not one of them. With this stunning Supreme Court decision, protections extend to all LGBTQ persons in all 50 states. Many doors are opening with this decision; not only do LGBTQ workers have more protections, but legal professionals now have new jurisprudence to rely on to help provide service to those in need. As always, for ALL of those in need, The Noble Law is here for you.
We hear you.