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LGBT Employment Rights Cases before U.S. Supreme Court Explained

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Three cases are pending before the Supreme Court of the United States that could have significant impacts on the employment rights of LGBT workers. Decisions will be issued before the Court recesses at the end of June.

These cases will determine if the 1964 Civil Rights Act prevents employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and transgender status.

Lydia Lavelle, politician and law professor, breaks down these cases in plain English and gives us some context for these monumental decisions that could be issued at any time.

Lavelle is mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina near Durham. When she was elected in 2013, she was the first openly-lesbian mayor in North Carolina.

Lavelle also is a law professor at North Carolina Central University and one of her research areas has been the effects of anti-discrimination laws on LGBT people.

She notes that currently states across the country have a patchwork of civil right laws and employment discrimination against the LGBT population is allowed in much of the nation.

The cases, now pending before the Supreme Court, ask the Court to interpret Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

Title VII bans discrimination based upon race, religion, national origin and sex. The question the Court is considering is whether the term “sex” applies to “sexual orientation” and “transgendered status.”

If the Court rules in favor of this interpretation, then state discriminatory practices would be banned under preemptive federal law. LGBT civil rights would be upheld across the country. The cases were argued before the court in early October.

These are the first LGBT rights cases to come before the court since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the controversial appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Kennedy was the swing vote giving same-sex couples the right to marry by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court vote.