The U.S. Supreme Court announced a ruling Monday that could have implications as broad as the decision legalizing same-sex marriage. It's basically redefined the very meaning of the word "sex" to protect LGBTQ workers…and maybe much more.
The court's ruling says you can't discriminate on the basis of sex, which in 1964 when that statute became law meant "male" or "female." But "sex" now also means both one's sexual orientation and one's gender identity.
President Trump said of the justices’ 6-3 decision, "They've ruled. I've read the decision and some people were surprised, but they've ruled and we live with their decision. That's what it’s all about. Very powerful decision actually. They have so ruled."
LGBTQ groups are rejoicing. The group Out & Equal announced, "The Supreme Court has made its statement. Our bedrock civil rights protections do apply to LGBTQ workers. This is a momentous day for the community."
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a momentous step forward for our country,” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gushed. “Before today, in more than half of states, LGBTQ+ people could get married one day and be fired from their job the next day under state law, simply because of who they are or who they love. This landmark 6-3 ruling affirms that LGBTQ+ Americans are entitled to equal rights under the law."
But Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino suggested the justices had to really twist the meaning of "sex discrimination" to include these new categories.
This Isn't How People Used to Define 'Sex'
"It's very clear however people might read that today in 2020, that's nowhere near how those words were understood in 1964 and for many decades thereafter," Severino told CBN News.
She pointed out Congress came up with Title VII, which outlaws sex discrimination, so only Congress should be able to define what it actually meant by "sex."
John Bursch echoed that thought. He represented the funeral home sued by a male employee who was fired after announcing he wanted to identify as a woman.
Bursch stated, "Americans must be able to rely on what the law says. That's why I'm so disappointed by what a majority of the justices were unwilling to affirm that commonsense principle. As Justice Alito explained in his dissent, 'There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. Redefining 'sex' as the court did to include gender identity and sexual orientation creates chaos, and it's unfair to women and girls in athletics and many other contexts."
Opens a Pandora's Box of Thorny Questions
The case involved gay and lesbian workers fired from their jobs and that transgender man at a funeral home. But the case has broad implications outside the workplace and leaves many questions to be settled.
Mary Beth Waddell, Family Research Council's senior legislative assistant, asked, "Is it going to be discrimination to not use preferred pronouns? Will employers now be required to cover healthcare when it comes to different transition-related things? What about religious employers?"
Severino said the list of controversial areas goes on: "Things like bathroom usage. Things like whether women's sports can continue to exist as we know it if they're forced to allow men to participate in those same sports. A lot of religious freedom questions."
Alliance Defending Freedom's Kate Anderson represented a women's shelter in Alaska. She said Anchorage officials told those running the shelter, "It had to allow a biological man who identified as female into the shelter where he would sleep mere feet from women, many of whom had been abused, trafficked, raped. These are women who because of their past trauma really couldn't be around a biological male while they slept."
She worries many more such incidents will occur now in the aftermath of this ruling.
'Poses a Grave Threat' Which 'Will have Seismic Implications for Religious Liberty'
As for people of faith, Tony Perkins at Family Research Council stated, "Allowing judges to rewrite the Civil Rights Act to add gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes pose a grave threat to religious liberty. We've already witnessed in recent years how courts have used the redefinition of words as a battering ram to crush faith-based businesses and organizations."
Trying to find a silver lining around a ruling he didn’t much like, First Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford said, “We are grateful that the Supreme Court was clear in the opinion that this federal statute does not overrule peoples’ religious freedoms. We will find out in the very near future whether this is a hollow promise or a truthful assurance that the religious liberty of all Americans will be protected.”
Such assurances in the Obergefell ruling that legalized same sex marriage gave some religious believers comfort back when that ruling came out in 2015. But numerous lawsuits and state actions have been launched since against Christians who refused to do business with those wanting to celebrate their same sex nuptials.
Southern Baptist Convention's Russell Moore predicted, "The ruling also will have seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.
The ruling will set off years of lawsuits and court struggles."
'Will Have a Monumental Effect on all of American Society'
And the National Association of Evangelicals said, "By reading into a venerable civil rights law newly discovered protected classes, the Supreme Court has teed up years of social conflict. Judicial decisions by their nature are blunt instruments between two parties that do not allow for nuanced distinctions between types of employers, such as religious employers, and types of employment decisions."
“While the Court majority may claim that its decision today only applies to employment decisions, the reality is that it will have a monumental effect on all of American society,” warned Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project. “Will women's sports leagues now have to admit any male athlete who identifies as a female? Will private spaces for women — such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and even battered women's shelters — now be found to violate federal law as well? All these issues and more are now up for grabs."
ADF's Anderson told CBN News, “We’re concerned about the way that this can impact other laws. Certainly this is a decision about employment law, but it can transfer over and we’re concerned about that in other contexts. We’ve seen changes in these types of laws at a local level and in other states, and those have caused problems for women in particular, as well as for employer and conscience rights.”
“Civil rights laws prohibiting sex discrimination were intended to protect women. Now, the Supreme Court in its arrogance has put those hard-won protections at risk,” Schilling added. He concluded, “Congress must find its backbone, take back its legislative authority stolen by the Court, and act to ensure the rights of future generations of Americans — and particularly women — are secured from the consequences of this horrendous decision.”
What the Court did NOT Take Up
There was also the matter of what the court did NOT decide to do Monday.
It refused to weigh in on any suits involving police officers and what’s known as “qualified immunity,” which protects them from prosecution in many cases involving their use of force. That comes after these many days of demonstrations and sometimes violent protesting and looting over the alleged police slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
And the court refused to get involved with a number of gun cases. Advocates for the Second Amendment right to bear arms were hoping the court’s new conservative majority might take up one or some of these cases to shore up that right. The court hasn’t released a major ruling dealing with guns now for a decade.
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