The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a major victory for advocates of gay rights — and a surprising one from an increasingly conservative court.
The decision said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, among other factors, also covers sexual orientation. It upheld rulings from lower courts that said sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination.
Across the nation, 21 states have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Seven more provide that protection only to public employees. Those laws remain in force, but Monday’s ruling means federal law now provides similar protection for LGBT employees in the rest of the country.
Gay rights groups considered the case a highly significant one, even more important than the fight to get the right to marry, because nearly every LGBT adult has or needs a job.