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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Duvall

3 Takeaways: SCOTUS Holds Title VII Prohibits Gay and Transgender Discrimination

Today, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ("SCOTUS") held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against or firing employees for being gay or transgender. [1] Today's ruling is a major victory for the LGBTQ+ community, for LGBTQ+ allies, and for equality.

Briefly, Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee "because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin[.]" [2] Today's ruling means that Title VII's protections cover discrimination because of an employee's gay or transgender status. In a 6-3 decision joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, Justice Gorsuch succinctly concluded:

  • "In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law."


This decision is a major step forward for equality and for the LGBTQ+ community. [3] In light of this landmark ruling, there are a couple of practical implications that businesses should consider, particularly as the decision also resolved a circuit split on the issue: [4]

  • Employment Policy/Handbooks –– revisit your employment policies and make sure they cover gender identity and sexual orientation.

  • Corporate/Management Training –– revise corporate anti-discrimination and harassment training programs and make clear throughout your organization that members of the LGBTQ+ community are protected against discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • Internal Complaints and Other Actions –– assess how today's SCOTUS ruling impacts potential or current employment matters and any liability thereunder.


[2] 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1).

[3] Notably, the decision today will likely have a ripple effect on other federal laws impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

[4] In the United States Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, a "circuit split" occurs when two or more circuits reach conflicting interpretations of federal law. In other words, circuit splits cause litigants in different jurisdictions to be treated differently in cases arising out of the same federal law.

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