By Bobbie Mae James
As of April 22, 2019, the Supreme Court added three cases to the docket for its next term beginning in October 2019: a transgender funeral home director who won her case for unlawful termination based on gender discrimination, a gay sky-diving instructor who successfully challenge his dismissal based on sexual-orientation claims, and a social worker who was unable to prove his unlawful termination was a result of his sexual orientation. These cases could be considered landmark civil rights cases if the court rules that sexual orientation and gender identity is encompassed within sex-based discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”).
Title VII forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. The term “sex” however, is not defined in the act. The question before the Supreme Court is whether the term “sex” is broad enough to encompass both sexual orientation and gender identity. In the traditional sense, sex is defined as the biological differences (both genetic and genitalia) between males and females. Gender is difficult to define but in general, it refers to the male and female roles/identities determined by society and an individual’s concept. The term sex and gender are used interchangeably despite their differences, and sexual orientation has added to the complexity of sex; it refers to ones sexual attraction to the sexes and other genders.