How Far Does the SCOTUS Ruling Go to Protect LGBTQ Rights?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


Trans rights rally in front of the White House in 2018 | Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA

How Significant Is the SCOTUS ruling for LGBTQ rights?

In a key ruling, the Supreme Court announced on Monday, June 16, that job discrimination on the basis of sexual or transgender identity is illegal. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s liberal wing in a 6-3 ruling that interpreted Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gay and transgender employees. Watch the video below and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript, click here

  • Justice Gorsuch wrote in his opinion that “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. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
  • This ruling means employees can seek relief in court if they are fired because they are gay or transgender. However, the plaintiff must prove that they were fired specifically because they were LGBTQ. This may be difficult to do based on Title VII, as it has been for women.
  • President Donald Trump’s administration has passed previous restrictions on transgender rights, such as removing protections in the Affordable Care Act and not allowing transgender individuals to serve in the armed forces. Other discriminatory policies related to education, housing and shelter and the Affordable Care Act are being litigated in lower courts. The Court’s latest ruling does not apply to these cases.



SCOTUS Ruling Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: How significant is the Supreme Court’s ruling for LGBTQ rights?
  2. Do you think this law (Title VII) will be easy to enforce? Why or why not? Has it prevented discrimination against women in the workplace? Explain.
  3. Why was it surprising that Justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s liberal judges in their opinion?
  4. How does a law or court case reach the Supreme Court? Watch this VOX video. What surprised you the most? What further questions do you have? (Bonus: What is the writ of certiorari?)



5. Media literacy: Did the presence of individuals directly involved in the Supreme Court case or their family members affect your understanding of the impact of this news story? Why or why not?

Extension Activity: Exploring Law

Have your students read Justice Gorsuch’s opinion for the majority. Help your students identify the following parts: syllabus, main opinion, concurring opinion and dissenting opinion. Utilize this article from the American Bar Association for guidance. 

Read the original article.