Office of the President

June 16, 2020

‘Simple but momentous’ –  A ruling for gay and trans rights is a ruling for human rights

Ana Mari Cauce

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a victory for human rights and the ideal that all people are entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law. In ruling that lesbian, gay and transgender people are protected from employment discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of sex, the court recognized that “sex” is intrinsic to many of the obstacles and abuses that gay and transgender people have faced in their careers and workplaces. With this acknowledgement by the highest court in the land, we move a little closer to being a nation that lives up to its promise that we are all created equal, no matter who we are or who we love.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, described the legal basis for the decision as “simple but momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.” The implications and legacy of this decision are indeed momentous, not in spite of but because the ruling was based on a straightforward reading of the Title VII statute. The law in this case spoke clearly to the court.

The result is a powerful and lasting reminder that we are a nation of laws that, when applied equitably, help us to create a society that treats all people fairly, recognizing their human dignity and their right to pursue happiness and success. And at a time when so many are advocating for equity through Black Lives Matter and other movements for justice, this ruling is also a reminder that progress IS possible. It shows that we can advance the cause of justice and equity even – or perhaps especially – during these challenging times.

Advancing that vision – in the courts, in the streets, in the legislature and on the ballot – is central to our work in ensuring that we create “a more perfect union.”