Monday, June 15, 2020

Two Wings Fly Together

The United States Supreme Court ("Supremes") released a remarkable decision on June 15, 2020, concerning equality before the law.  In the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, a robust majority of six justices, including all four justices generally regarded as leaning leftward alongside two justices usually regarded as learning rightward (that is, Chief Justice John Glover Roberts and Associate Justice Neil McGill Gorsuch), agreed on a decision written by Justice Gorsuch.  Here is the essence of their decision:
Sometimes small gestures can have unexpected consequences.  Major initiatives practically guarantee them.  In our time, few pieces of federal legislation rank in significance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  There, in Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear.  An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.  Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.
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.  But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.  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.
Given its bipartisan nature and decisive mathematics, this decision has now settled a fundamental issue of equal rights for the foreseeable future.  Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh dissented from the majority decision.