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  • Writer's pictureDavid J Wudyka

Reaction TO LGBTQ Supreme Court Decision of 6/14/20

Updated: May 17

The Supreme Court made two momentous decisions for the benefit of the LGBTQ and transgendered communities on June 14, 2020.

These decisions came as no surprise.

The Court ruled that both groups are entitled to protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The justices recognized and reinforced the effect of case law decisions since 1964 that have expanded the interpretation and coverage of Title VII for groups excluded from the original language. These groups were not intentionally excluded, but their causes became more relevant to our society over the last fifty-six years. The original language did protect people from “sex” discrimination, which can also be thought of as “gender” discrimination.

Via case law, the Act has expanded its coverage to include groups such as Vietnam Veterans, people with certain diseases, victims of sexual harassment, allegations of comparable worth unfairness, age discrimination, and others. In some of these groups, subsequent laws were created to specifically protect members of the affected group. Examples include the Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Act and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Title VII has always been a “safe harbor” for people alleging that the relevant discrimination that was clearly not covered by other laws, such as the Equal Pay Act. For example, in Gunther vs. the State of Washington, Gunther and her cohorts suffered pay discrimination in the State’s prison system, as compared to male guards. However, the jobs were not the “same job” as stipulated in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Therefore, the courts said that Gunther’s claim could not be decided by the application of the Equal Pay Act’s language. Thus Gunther “bounced” between the two Laws. It was eventually determined that Title VII, while not specifically relevant, could be the law under which the plaintiffs case could be adjudicated.

Ironically, the dissenting justices alleged a similar interpretation in the case affecting the LGBTQ communities. They claimed that the plaintiffs’ characteristics (i.e. LGBTQ) were not identified in the language of Title VII in 1964. Therefore, Title VII was not “relevant” to their allegations.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or thoughts about this momentous decision.

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