In a decision released Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the definition of the term sex in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, even though neither category is specifically mentioned by the law.
The opinion related to three cases brought to the high court—Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Aimee Stephens & EEOC—and upheld lower court decisions on the matter.
On a high court generally thought to have a 5-4 conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch, both in the conservative wing, joined with the court’s liberal justices in a 6-3 vote. Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas offered dissenting opinions.
“Before issuing today’s radical decision, the court should have given some thought to where its decision would lead,” Alito, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote. “As the briefing in these cases has warned, the position that the court now adopts will threaten freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and personal privacy and safety.”
Kavanaugh argued that it is Congress’ role to amend Title VII, not the court’s, even though he seemed to mark the ruling with some congratulatory language toward the LGBTQ movement.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Aimee Stephens & EEOC marked the first time the court heard arguments regarding the civil rights of a transgender individual.
Although Anthony Stephens, a former funeral director at Harris Funeral Homes in Detroit, passed away on May 12, the case continued on.
In 2013, Stephens expressed the intent to begin dressing and presenting as a woman named “Aimee” at work. His job involved significant interaction with grieving families, some of whom were repeat clients who knew him only as Anthony.
At the time, Stephens had been working at the funeral home for six years and had previously agreed to abide by a sex-specific dress code.
After much thought and prayer, Thomas Rost, Harris Funeral Homes’ owner, gave Stephens a choice—he could either conform to Harris’ male dress code or resign and accept a generous severance package.
Instead, Stephens filed a complaint against Harris for employment discrimination, which led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an unelected federal agency, to sue the funeral home.
For seven long years, Rost has been fighting for his business and his right to live out his Biblical values. But instead, Monday’s ruling handed LGBTQ advocates a major win.
“Americans must be able to rely on what the law says, and it is disappointing that a majority of the justices were unwilling to affirm that commonsense principle,” said John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy for Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing Harris Funeral Homes. “Redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ will create chaos and enormous unfairness for women and girls in athletics, women’s shelters and many other contexts. Civil rights laws that use the word ‘sex’ were put in place to protect equal opportunities for women. Allowing a court or government bureaucrats to redefine a term with such a clear and important meaning undermines those very opportunities—the ones the law was designed to protect.”
Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on Twitter, “The SCOTUS decision today on LGBTQ and discrimination is an absolute disaster. … [These are] huge issues that will extend throughout American society.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty,” but even more important lessons for teaching the next generation Biblical truth about God’s plan for sexuality and its inseparable connection to the Gospel.
“We are not self-created, nor are we self-determining beings,” Moore said. “God has created us, from the beginning, male and female—a concept articulated at the very onset of the biblical canon (Gen. 1:27) and reaffirmed by our Lord Jesus (Mk. 10:6). That’s because this creation order is not arbitrary but is intended to point beyond itself to the mystery of the Gospel (Eph. 5:32). Here the church has stood, and will stand.”
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