In a 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court held that gay and transgender employees may sue their employers under Title VII for discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Gorsuch, began its analysis by considering the definition of the word “sex.” The Court assumed that the term refers only to biological distinctions between male and female. But the Court noted, Title VII prohibits taking certain actions “because of” sex, meaning “sex” can be one of multiple factors. And Title VII prohibits discrimination against individuals, not groups. According to Justice Gorsuch: “From the ordinary public meaning of the statute’s language at the time of the law’s adoption, a straightforward rule emerges: . . . If the employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee—put differently, if changing the employee’s sex would have yielded a different choice by the employer—a statutory violation has occurred.”