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Citizenship

US Supreme Court Rules Workers Can't Be Fired for Being LGBTQ

By Oscar Lopez

MEXICO CITY, June 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that federal law protecting workers from discrimination on the basis of sex also applies to gay and trans people, a move described as one of the most significant decisions on LGBT+ rights in recent years.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars companies from discriminating on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin, and religion, also applies to gay and trans people.

For gay and trans Americans, many of whom have experienced discrimination at work or even been fired for being LGBT+, the ruling represents a landmark moment in gay rights.

"No trans people and no lesbian or gay people can ever be fired or discriminated against for being gay or transgender — that's the immutable law of the land now," said Vandy Beth Glenn, a trans woman fired in 2007 when she came out as trans.

"This is a win for all Americans," Glenn told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding she was in tears upon hearing of the court's ruling.

In his majority opinion, conservative justice Neil Gorsuch wrote: "Ours is a society of written laws ... An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law."

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LGBT+ advocacy groups welcomed the decision as an important step in protecting gay and trans workers, more than half of whom live in states without explicit workplace protections, leaving them vulnerable to harassment or firing without legal recourse.

"This is a landmark victory for LGBTQ equality," Alphonso David, president of LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, said on Twitter. "We cannot and should not go back to a time when people felt they had to hide who they are in order to feel safe at work."

The court's ruling comes days after the administration of President Donald Trump announced a rollback of guidance implemented during the administration of President Barack Obama which protected trans people from discrimination in health care. Trans rights advocate Carter Brown said if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of workplace protections, it would still require a cultural shift before trans people truly felt safe at work.

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Brown, 45, from Dallas, Texas, was fired from his real estate job after co-workers found out he was trans.

He said being fired because of his gender identity was a major blow after he survived homelessness and became the first person in his immediate family to graduate from university.

"It felt like the entire dream and effort of making a great life for myself regardless of my trials ... that was all hopeless," he said. "Laws need to be enforced ... (but) if they pass it, it still comes down to the hearts and minds that are there before you with your fate in their hands."

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(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)