The Supreme Court reviewed three court cases where the employers terminated employees because the employees were homosexual or transgender. Gerald Bostock was terminated for conduct “unbecoming” a county employee when it was found that Gerald played in a gay softball league. Donald Zarda was fired after he mentioned being gay. Aimee Stephens presented herself as a male when she was hired. She was fired when she informed her employer she planned to “live and work full-time as woman.” The Supreme Court ruled that it’s impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.
Justice Neil Gorsuch 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.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee stated “…the Supreme Court has confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity. That everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear…”
As of June 15, 2020, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal by all employers covered by Title VII, extending workplace discrimination protection to the approximately 11 million Americans who identify as LGBT.
Employers might consider revising their anti-discrimination policies to clarify that prohibited sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender-identity based discrimination. However, this decision doesn’t require a new policy statement because it is not a new category. More importantly, employers should add new content to anti-discrimination training, especially for supervisors. It is past time to learn and use respectful, inclusive terminology.
LGBT is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. You may see LGBTQ, Q stands for queer or questioning and if it appears as LGBTQ+, Q+ is meant to be all inclusive. Sexual orientation describes a person’s physical, romantic, and emotional attraction to another person. Do not confuse sexual orientation and gender identity. These are entirely different concepts.
Gender identity is our personal sense of our gender. There is a binary understanding of male or female and a spectrum (or non-binary) understanding of the term. For people who are transgender, their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. People who are transgender typically make their gender expression match their gender identity through clothing, hair, voice, or other characteristics. People who are transgender may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically. Transitioning is a complex and individual process that may start with telling family and friends and might include changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents. It may also include hormonal therapy or surgery. Sex or Gender Reassignment refers to surgical alteration.
As Maya Angelou’s Human Family poem reads, In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.