On the Basis of Sex?

On Tuesday, October 8th, 2019, The Supreme court of the United States heard oral arguments from two cases involving sexual orientation and discrimination in the workplace. The two cases heard by the court were Bostock v. Clayton County, GA and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda. Both cases (which are being combined for oral arguments) are attempting to answer the question: Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against employment discrimination based on an individual’s sex, encompass discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation?

Lawyers for the plaintiffs (arguing that Title VII does include sexual orientation) made the argument that “a person’s sexual orientation is a sex-based classification because it cannot be defined without reference to one’s sex.” Simply, if an employer discriminates against a man because he dates other men it is because he is a man dating other men. Lawyers for the defense argued that when examining the literal meaning of Title VII, the federal law does not apply to sexual orientation as “the ordinary meaning of sex is biologically male or female.” They also argued that in passing Title VII (over 50 years ago), Congress did not intend to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  

Now that oral arguments have been heard, the justices will meet to discuss the merits of each side’s arguments, vote, and deliver opinions. Supreme Court opinions are usually made public sometime during the months of May and June following oral arguments.

For more information visit www.supremecourt.gov to browse opinions, oral argument transcripts, case documents, and other news media.

Written by: Michael Van Aken, Library Assistant 

Michael Van Aken

By Michael Van Aken

October 19, 2019

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