WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. Supreme Court will take on cases this week regarding whether federal law includes workplace protections for members of the LGBTQ community.
On Tuesday, justice will hear oral arguments in three lawsuits to determine if an employer can fire someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Robin Maril, a lawyer with LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign says the ruling will impact how millions of Americans can be treated in the workplace, housing and schools.
“(This) might be the most important Supreme Court case that will impact the LGBTQ community,” she said. “It really would open people up for discrimination.”
The cases boil down to one main question: Does the definition of the word “sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 include gender identity or sexual orientation?
Attorney John Bursch of the Alliance Defending Freedom, who will argue on behalf of two Michigan funeral home owners who fired a transgender employee for violating their dress code, says no.
“That’s not the way the law is supposed to work,” Bursch said. “That decision to apply the sex-specific dress code based on the biological sex of his employees (is) completely in accord with federal law.”
He will tell the justices that adding definitions to the word “sex” would set a dangerous precedent.
“It can hurt women and girls in athletics, it can impact people in their private bodily spaces,” he said.
The two other cases involved defendants who say they were fired for being gay. The court will likely rule on all three at once later in its term.
While the Obama administration said the Civil Rights Act protections should extend to gender identity and sexual orientation, the Trump administration disagrees. Lower courts have been split on the issue. Additionally, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, an LGBTQ champion, stepped down last year and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.