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U.S. Supreme Court taking up LGBTQ discrimination cases

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will take up the question of whether a federal anti-discrimination law applies to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. In agreeing to hear two cases dealing with LGBTQ discrimination, the nation’s highest court will address the question of whether that protection extends to sexual orientation and being transgender.

The court will hear three cases:

Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, a New York case wherein a skydiving instructor claims he was fired because he is gay. In its ruling on the case, The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.”

*  Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, a case wherein a child welfare services coordinator claims he was fired for being gay. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found against him, stating “discharge for homosexuality is not prohibited by Title VII” in an unsigned opinion that cited a previous decision from 1979.

R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the case of a transgender woman fired from a funeral home in Michigan after after coming out as transgender and letting her employers know she would start working in feminine clothing. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found in her favor, saying  “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.”

Last month, North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill that would extend discrimination protections for housing, employment and accommodations to LGBTQ people.

A similar bill died in committee when it was last introduced. But Sen. Terry van Duyn, D-Buncombe, said its time has come.

“We’re seeing attitudes change across the state,” she said. “Sometimes it takes legislators a little while to catch up with the people they represent.”

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