The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear three high-profile cases involving employment discrimination against LGBT Americans. Together, the court will determine whether federal civil rights protections extend to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The cases center on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of "sex." The justices will consider whether the term covers sexual orientation and gender identity — a question over which lower courts have divided.
In one case from New York, a sky-diving instructor sued his employer — Altitude Express Inc. — after he was allegedly fired for being gay. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the instructor.
A Georgia man, who alleges he was fired as a child welfare services coordinator because he is gay, lost his legal challenge against Clayton County, Georgia, in the Eleventh Circuit, which said sexual orientation is not a protected class.
In a third case out of Michigan, a transgender woman who was fired by the funeral home where she worked alleges employers penalized her on the basis of gender identity. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor.
The cases will be heard during the court's fall term, which starts in October.
"No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or who they love, including LGBTQ people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
"The Supreme Court has an opportunity to clarify this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ people in many important areas of life. The impact of this decision will have very real consequences for millions of LGBTQ people across the country," she said.