Equities

Supreme Court clashes over meaning of ‘sex’ in LGBT discrimination cases


Demonstrators in favor of LGBT rights rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, October 8, 2019, as the Court holds oral arguments in three cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty ImagesThe justices of the Supreme Court clashed over the meaning of “sex” in heated oral arguments on Tuesday over a blockbuster set of cases concerning the rights of LGBT workers.The court heard the cases of three LGBT employees, two gay men and a transgender woman, who claim they were fired because of their identities. At issue was the meaning of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination because of “sex” but does not specifically refer to gender identity or sexual orientation.Arguments, which lasted two hours, concluded around noon. It was not immediately clear which side will garner a majority. A decision is expected by June of 2020. Several of the court’s conservatives argued that expanding Title 7 to include discrimination against LGBT workers is the job of Congress, not the courts. Both sides have acknowledged that at the time the law was passed in 1964, its drafters likely did not envision that it would apply to gay or transgender individuals. But Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first appointee to the bench, suggested with his questioning that he was sympathetic to the argument that the word “sex” necessarily includes sexual orientation as well as gender identity. “Wouldn’t an employer say that [the firing is] because he is a man attracted to other men?” Gorsuch asked of Jeffrey Harris, an attorney for Clayton County, Georgia, which was accused of firing a county employee who is gay.Harris responded that the “common parlance” is “same-sex attraction.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who is believed to be a possible swing vote in the matter, did not ask any questions that indicated how he may vote. It is not always possible to determine how justices will vote based on the questions they ask during oral argument. This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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