WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the U.S. Supreme Court for affirming in their decision on Monday that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
This landmark decision prohibits those who are gay, lesbian or transgender from being disciplined, fired or turned down for a job because of their sexual orientation. Prior to Monday’s ruling, LBGTQ workers in over half the states did not have this legal protection.
Writing for the court’s majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment also effectively banned bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity. "Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees," Gorsuch wrote. "But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands," he continued. "When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit."
“Freedom from workplace discrimination is a fundamental civil right that for too long has not been provided to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Officer of NASW. “With this historic decision, the Supreme Court is recognizing the worth and dignity of all workers”.
Protection from discrimination in the workplace is needed more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, with high unemployment rates and the prospect of finding a new job low. Over 17% of LGBTQ people and 22% of LGBTQ people of color reported becoming unemployed as a result of COVID-19.
There are still numerous gaps in our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, such as in housing and healthcare. It is therefore essential that Congress pass the Equality Act to provide full federal anti-discrimination protection for all people. NASW will continue to vigorously advocate and fight for this legislation.
Take time to read an NASW Social Work Blog article from NASW Associate Counsel Elizabeth Feltson, Esq., LICSW, that details how the association was involved in the case and helped support the historic ruling.