In a substantial legal challenge, which has been called “bigger than gay marriage,” the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing two hours of argument tomorrow relating to three different lawsuits. The cases surround claims of alleged sex discrimination in the workplace, which will result in a final determination by the country’s highest court on whether or not people who identify as “gay” or “transgender” are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from being fired.
During Tuesday’s hearing, three cases, which are Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, and R.G. & J.R. Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be heard by the Supreme Court justices with the exception of Clarence Thomas — one of the most conservative justices, who has fallen ill.
The first two cases involve men in New York and Georgia who claim they were terminated from their places of employment (as a skydiving instructor and child welfare coordinator, respectively) for being homosexual.
A third case involves a funeral home director in Michigan who was born biologically male, but now dresses as a woman, considering himself “transgender.” The funeral home that employed him would not allow him to dress as a woman at the workplace, and he was eventually fired for the behavior.
If the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the former employees in these cases, it would mark a massive shift in what Congress sought to protect in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when originally passed and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
The Act for most of its existence was not interpreted to include protections based on sexual orientation and identity issues until subsequent court rulings and Supreme Court precedents have reinterpreted what discrimination is based on sex, leaving conflict among the courts. This has led to the Supreme Court taking on matter to make a final determination.
The high court is also set to hear other cases that surround abortion and immigration this term.