DETROIT – The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that LGBT workers are protected from job discrimination and being fired for sexual orientation under the Civil Rights Act.
Monday’s landmark ruling involved a case that involved R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Garden City.
“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,” wrote Neil Gorsuch in the majority opinion. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The decision will affect every corner of the country.
“It feels like a whirlwind,” said Jay Kaplan, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “I feel very happy, and it really hasn’t hit me just yet."
The victory is bittersweet for the ACLU, as Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman at the center of the ruling, died last month.
“She told me that one of her wishes before she died was that she would be alive to be able to read the opinion, so I’m so sad that she can’t be here today,” Kaplan said.
In 2013, Stephens was fired from her job at the funeral home after she came out as transgender. She sued, saying the Civil Rights Act prevents employment discrimination based on sex.
Seven years later, the Supreme Court agreed, in a 6-3 decision.
“It’s so gratifying to see that the highest court in the land is saying that when you discriminate against somebody because they’re gay or because they’re transgender, it is because of sex,” Kaplan said.
John Borsch, the attorney who represented the funeral home before the Supreme Court last year, disagrees.
ACLU officials said Stephens’ determination led to a victory for the LGBTQ movement.
“It was her,” Kaplan said. “It was her courage and her bravery to come forward and say, ‘This isn’t right, and I want to do something about it and I want to make this world a better world for other transgender people.’ That was her commitment all the way through this process.”
Stephens’ wife, Donna, said she’s grateful for the ruling and that Stephens’ legacy ensures people are treated fairly, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.