Fifty-five years after Congress passed the landmark civil rights law, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether Title VII, which addresses discrimination in the workplace, protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. On Tuesday, the court heard three cases about Title VII’s application to LGBTQ people.
The cases are Bostock v. Clayton County from the 11th Circuit, Altitude Express v. Zarda from the 2nd Circuit and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC from the 6th Circuit.
They break down into two types of cases questioning with whether the law covers sexual orientation, and whether the law protects transgender people from discrimination.
The two types of cases make analogous arguments: The people who have claimed discrimination say their employers would not have subjected people in opposite circumstances to the same treatment.
Lawyers for Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda, who is deceased, argue discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination “because of sex” given that their employers would not object if they were women attracted to men.
“When an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire female employees who date men, he violates Title VII. The employer has, in the words of Section 703(a), discriminated against the man because he treats that man worse than women who want to do the same thing,” said Stanford’s Pamela Karlan in her arguments for Bostock.
Bostock worked as the child welfare coordinator for Clayton County in Georgia for 10 years and won awards for his work. But after he joined a gay recreational softball league, he told NPR, the county fired him within months. Donald Zarda, who worked as a skydiving instructor, died in 2014. His estate is continuing his discrimination case on his behalf.