WASHINGTON — In the first major LGBTQ rights case to reach the US Supreme Court since he became a justice last year, Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave little away during arguments on Tuesday, asking only one question.
The court heard two cases about whether a federal law prohibiting “sex”-based discrimination in the workplace protects people from being fired simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — the case turns on whether the justices conclude those are rooted in a person’s “sex.”
Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who by the time he retired in 2018 had become not only the court’s swing vote, but also a leading proponent for the rights of LGBTQ individuals; Kennedy wrote the opinion that legalized same-sex marriage. Civil rights advocates feared that Kavanaugh, as Trump’s second Supreme Court appointee, would move the court further to the right on a number of issues, including LGBTQ rights.
But Kavanaugh gave no real clues about what he’s thinking during arguments on Tuesday. The court heard two sets of cases — first, whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects workers against discrimination from private employers based on “sex,” protects workers based on their sexual orientation, and second, whether the law protects workers who are transgender.
Kavanaugh’s lone question was directed at Jeffrey Harris, who argued on behalf of employers in the sexual orientation cases. Kavanaugh asked if Harris was drawing a distinction between the “literal” and “ordinary” meaning of “because of sex” in the context of sex-based discrimination. Harris said he was not, and then moved on to another point. Kavanaugh didn’t follow up or elaborate on why he’d asked the question.
In both cases, the employers, with support from the Trump administration, argued that interpreting Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” to include discrimination against LGBTQ workers would be going beyond what Congress had intended. Read more via Buzzfeed