|National Equality March, Washington, D.C., October 11, 2009. Photo by Rex Wockner|
Last update: June 15, 2020
On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying LGBT people are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act's ban on workplace sex discrimination.
The 6-3 decision, written by Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, said: "An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] forbids."
Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, job discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned in only 23 of the 50 states and two of the five territories, under state and territory law, and in one more state under a federal appeals court ruling. And job discrimination based on gender identity was banned in 22 states and two territories, under state and territory law, and in four more states under a federal appeals court ruling.
Laws in states and territories
Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is banned nationwide by the Supreme Court ruling. LGBT people have additional protections, in the areas of housing and public accommodations, in 23 states.
Twenty-one states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. So does the federal district, Washington, D.C.
Wisconsin prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Utah prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing but not in public accommodations. Guam and Puerto Rico (U.S. territories) also prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment before the nationwide Supreme Court ruling.
In states with no sexual-orientation or gender-identity protections in the remaining areas of housing and public accommodations, it is common to find protections at the municipal level in large cities and university towns. Local nondiscrimination ordinances, however, sometimes do not have the teeth of state or federal laws.