US Supreme Court weighs rights of LGBT employees

The United States Supreme Court is wading into a major LGBT rights dispute over whether a landmark decades-old federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex covers gay and transgender workers.

On Tuesday, a day after kicking off their new nine-month term in Washington, the court’s justices are set to hear two hours of arguments in three related cases. LGBT rights activists held a demonstration near the court ahead of the scheduled start of the arguments at 10am local time (14:00 GMT).

The Supreme Court delivered an important gay rights decision in 2015 legalising same-sex marriage nationwide.

Its dynamics on LGBT issues, however, changed following the 2018 retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who backed gay rights in major cases and who wrote the same-sex marriage ruling.

At issue is whether gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, colour, national origin and religion.

The legal fight focuses on the definition of “sex” in Title VII. The plaintiffs, along with civil rights groups and many large companies, have argued that discriminating against gay and transgender workers is inherently based on their sex and consequently is illegal.

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