High Court Appears Split Over LGBT Rights

Oct 8, 2019

A seemingly divided Supreme Court is considering whether federal civil rights law protects LGBT people from job discrimination.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said in arguments Wednesday that the case seems close, but he wonders whether the justices should consider "the massive social upheaval" that might follow a ruling in favor of LGBT employees.

The court's four liberal justices appeared likely to vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex should encompass both sexual orientation and transgender status.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs would need one additional vote to prevail. Gorsuch is one possibility. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not squarely indicate their views.

The court is hearing arguments Tuesday in two closely watched LGBT cases.

In the first case, Chief Justice John Roberts wondered, if the court finds that sexual orientation is covered by civil rights law, whether there should be exemptions for employers with sincerely held religious beliefs.

Roberts is considered a possible swing vote on the issue.