The woman who brought transgender workers’ issues before the Supreme Court will have a lasting legacy

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Journalist Maria Ressa faces a conviction in the Philippines, the WNBA is set for tip off, and—thanks to Aimee Stephens—we take an essential step toward basic fairness in the workplace. Have an inspired Tuesday.

– This ruling rules. We’ve been overdue for some good news, right? Well, yesterday delivered: the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to protect the rights of LGBTQ workers. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all joined the majority.)

The case asked the justices to decide whether the reference to “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex—applies to gay and transgender workers. For the conservatives who voted with the majority, particularly Gorsuch, the question seems to have come down to “textural” concerns. In other words, does the law as written—regardless of the writers’ intent—protect gay and transgender employees. For Gorsuch, the answer is a clear “yes.”

As someone who is very much not an attorney, such legal rationales seem less important than the fundamental ethical questions at play: Do we live in a society where it should be legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender? Do we want to?

Monday’s ruling, as the justices have allowed, is narrow: it doesn’t answer questions like who can use gender-specific restrooms or locker rooms or participate in gender-divided groups like sports teams—and, most importantly, it does not address the question of whether religious employers can choose to discriminate against gay or trans people. I suspect those questions will resurface soon enough, but for now it’s just nice to enjoy this essential step toward basic fairness in the workplace.

Finally, I’d encourage you to take a moment to read this story about Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman who brought the suit that widened the case to include trans people. Stephens died last month, so missed the opportunity to see what her bravery has achieved—but her influence will live on and be felt by many.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Claire Zillman. 

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