Civil Rights Leaders: Title VII Must Cover LGBTQ People

Contact: Shin Inouye, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, [email protected], 202.869.0398
Graciela González, Lambda Legal, [email protected], 312.663.4413, x329

WASHINGTON – Two civil rights leaders today outlined in SCOTUSblog why Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal, authored the piece and previously served in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division – with Gupta as acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division and McGowan as principal deputy chief of the Appellate Section.

On October 8, the U. S. Supreme Court will consider this issue in three cases: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As the authors note, “In light of Title VII’s clear language prohibiting discrimination because of sex, these cases should be quite easy for the court to resolve in the employees’ favor…  And yet we know that much ink will be spilled in an effort to make something simple appear to be rather complicated. To be sure, the resolution of these cases will have a profound effect on the ability of LGBT people to live with dignity and contribute fully to their communities. Ultimately, however, the true question presented in these cases will be whether the words of the statute will command the court’s fidelity.”

Gupta and McGowan also write, “Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it has been illegal to discriminate against an individual in employment on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including their sex. And yet, as is often the case with civil rights, the addition of these federal protections did not eradicate discrimination overnight. Rather, it instigated a conversation that has been playing out in the courts over the last 50 years about what it means to discriminate against someone because of their sex.”

The full piece can be read here.


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.