In a 6-3 ruling this morning, the Supreme Court declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination.

The decision is a historic victory for LGBTQ people in the United States and came as a welcome surprise considering the court’s conservative majority and that two of the court’s most conservative justices—Justin Neil M. Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.—joined the court’s liberals. 

Legal bloggers have rapidly chimed in to give important historical context, share their perspectives, and provide expertise on the potential impact of the ruling. Here are their perspectives: 

Historical context

Ethan White of Emery Law was the first in the LexBlog Network to report on the ruling. He gives  a backdrop on how the tide began to turn in favor of LGBTQ protections:

“For many years following Title VII’s passage in 1964, courts routinely held that sex-based bias did not cover gay workers, and most said it did not protect transgender workers. Since approximately 2010, however, the tide began to turn, and judges began interpreting Title VII to cover the LGBTQ community. Indeed, some of that momentum came from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (located in downtown Chicago).  In 2017, that Court became the first federal appellate court in the country to extend the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” Read more from the Emery Law Blog.

John Richards and Nicholas Corsano of Greenberg Traurig also gave context on the cases, and offers practical implications for employers:

“What do a gay child-welfare advocate from Georgia, a transgender funeral home employee from Michigan, and a gay skydiving instructor from New York have in common? According to the Supreme Court of the United States, they were all discriminated against…” Read more from the GT L&E Blog.

Melissa LegaultDaniel PasternakLaura Lawless and Lew Clark, of Squire Patton Boggs explained the three cases that were pivotal to SCOTUS’ decision:

“Three separate decisions came before the Court on appeal, but in each case, the employer was alleged to have fired an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the employer fired a county employee for “unbecoming conduct” after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league….” Read more from the Employment Law Worldview blog.

Notable features of the opinion

Marianna J. Michael of Wyatt Tarrant and Combs broke down the important lessons needed to understand the Court’s opinion:

“The Court’s opinion then recognized three “lessons” from the Court’s precedent that apply to cases of discrimination against homosexual and transgender employees: First, how an employer labels its discriminatory practice or the motivation behind the discriminatory practice is irrelevant.  For example, if an employer fails to hire a woman with children for being a mother, but hires a man with children of the same age and labels the practice as a “motherhood policy,” the employer…” Read more from the Wyatt Employment Law Report.

Carolyn Rashby and Teresa Lewi of Covington & Burling highlighted important aspects to recognize in light of the ruling:

“The Supreme Court indicated that it was not deciding whether Title VII prohibits sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms.  The Court also acknowledged that Title VII may intersect with religious liberties, but declined to rule on the issue, noting that “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases too..” Read more from Inside Compensation.

 Charla Bizios Stevens of McLane Middleton said, 

“Much will be written about this pivotal decision: whether the Court was engaged in impermissible legislation from the bench, whether it was doing what it deemed fair and right rather than legal, or whether it was simply interpreting the plain meaning of the Civil Rights Act’s protection.  But make no mistake, this is a pivotal decision which sets a remarkable and perhaps unexpected tone for the current iteration of the Roberts Court.” Read more from Employment Law Business Guide.

Jamie LaPlante of Bailey Cavalieri explained that:

The opinion was based on a “textualist approach to a constitutional analysis.” Read more from Ohio Employment Law Matters.

Fiona Ong of Shawe Rosenthal said,

Of particular interest, the Supreme Court also rejected the employers’ (oft-cited) argument that if Congress had intended to include homosexuality and transgender status within Title VII’s list of protected characteristics, it would have specifically done so.” Read more from Labor & Employment Report.

How employers should respond

Trevor Jorgensen and Julie Stahr of Schiff Hardin said,

“States may have already enacted policies to prohibit discrimination on those bases, and employers there and elsewhere may have chosen to enact such policies regardless of whether there was a legal obligation to do so. Bostock makes clear it is no longer discretionary….” Read more from Employment Law Landscape.

Lori Halber and Gavin Carpenter of Reed Smith said,

“All employers would be best served by taking the opportunity to educate and train their employees on their anti-discrimination and harassment policies and to focus some of that training on LGBTQ+ bias…” Read more from Employment Law Watch.

Hera Arsen of Ogletree Deakins said,

“The statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” Read more from Ogletree Deakins’ Insights blog.

Local impacts

Megan Bennett of Frantz Ward explained the impact in Ohio,

“Ohio’s law remains the same and does not provide any protections for LGBT employees. However, Ohio employers are prohibited under Title VII from discriminating against LGBT employees. Therefore, at a minimum, employers should consider taking the following steps as a result of today’s decision…” Read more  from Labor & Employment Law Navigator.

Daniel Schwartz of Shipman Goodwin explained the impact in Connecticut,

“For Connecticut employers, the case should be welcome news; no more will employers have to navigate inconsistent laws in other states. And having consistent federal laws will make it easier for training purposes too.  Employers should update their policies too to make sure this is included in anti-discrimination protections.” Read more from the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.