The nine justices weighed whether a landmark federal law that bars employment discrimination on the basis of sex should apply to gay and transgender people.
"This is about whether LGBT workers are going to be treated equally in the workplace, it's about whether we're going to allow employers to deny opportunity, to harass, to discriminate people based on who they are and who they love", said Sasha Buchert, a transgender woman and senior attorney with the pro-LGBT civil rights organization Lambda Legal.
Eddie Reynoso while waiting in line outside the Supreme Court building on Monday.
Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, suggested sexual orientation is a clear subset of sex discrimination, saying that a man who loves other men can not be treated differently by an employer than a woman who loves men.
Bostock v. Clayton County Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarada were brought by homosexual men who claimed they were fired due to their sexual orientation. His primary responsibility was a program that provides advocates in court for abused and neglected children.
"It was based on [my sexuality] 100%", Mr Celento said.
The company maintained he was sacked because he shared personal information with a client, not because he was gay, but a court in NY ruled in Mr Zarda's favour.
Aimee Stephens, right, with wife Donna Stephens at their home in MI.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC centers on a man who was sacked after he announced he had changed his name and would now be coming to work as a woman.
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Ria Tabacco Mar of the powerful American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that "in many ways, this is more fundamental than what was at stake" in the same-sex marriage case of 2015.
"No one thought sexual harassment was a thing in 1964", she said.
Distraught, Stephens chose to fight. For eight months, she worked on a letter to her boss and co-workers telling them of her gender identity.
Two weeks after giving the letter to her boss, Stephens was sacked. He appealed in Bostock vs. Clayton County after his discrimination suit was tossed out.
Sex discrimination is banned by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Additionally, the justices will consider a claim by a transgender woman named Aimee Stephens who says she was dismissed from her job at a MI funeral home after she informed the owner that she was transitioning to female and would be dressing as a woman at work. Religious exemptions, he said, already exist under federal law.
Supporting that argument are 15 states, including Texas, and its solicitor general, Kyle Hawkins. As written, the law prohibits discriminating against someone on the basis of sex, but it was never clear on the issue of sexual orientation.
But rather than interpreting the law and applying it, Gorsuch and the other conservatives on the Supreme Court on Tuesday offered up reasons why they just couldn't make what they seemed to know was the right choice. Last year, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in NY overturned its prior rulings, determining that "sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination". Its dynamics on LGBT issues, however, changed following the 2018 retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who backed gay rights in major cases and wrote the same-sex marriage ruling. "So the notion that this is going to be a huge upheaval", said Cole, "we haven't seen that upheaval for 20 years".
The two other cases involved defendants who say they were fired for being gay.
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More than half of US states lack explicit LGBT anti-discrimination protections.
Similarly, she maintains, "If you wouldn't fire a man for marrying a woman, but you would fire a woman for marrying a woman, you've discriminated against the woman who works for you".
A related case on transgender employees is also being heard Tuesday. But it is arguably more stark.
What does Title VII specifically say about sex discrimination? So it's not sex discrimination, it's sexual orientation discrimination. He warns that if the court were to rule against the employers in these cases, it would have ramifications beyond employment.
Two hours of lively arguments touched on sex-specific bathrooms, locker rooms and dress codes, and even a reference to the androgynous character known simply as Pat on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s.
Could employment cases affect school sports?
"The text of the statute appears to be pretty firmly in Karlan's corner", Kagan said. And the NCAA has developed regulations for when trans student-athletes may or may not participate. And the regulations for education funding under Title IX "are different than the rules in the workplace" under Title VII.
A lower court sided with Ms Stephens.
The Trump administration and the employers say Congress could easily settle the matter by amending Title 7 to include LGBT people.
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