On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender workers. In other words, an employer cannot fire someone simply because they identify as LGBTQ+. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writer of the majority opinion, argues that firing someone for their sexual orientation is discriminating based on sex, which the Title VII laws expressly forbid.
For the purposes of this article, we can set aside inter-religious debates about the LGBTQIA+ community. I believe that no matter where you fall on those issues, it should be clear to us all: discriminating against someone’s sexual orientation is bad.
According to the majority opinion, the issue lies not in the meaning of “sex” but in the meaning of “discriminate.” Gorsuch explains that they need to get behind the intention of the Act. The Act intends to stop unfair practices based on several traits. About discrimination, the opinion says, “An employer who intentionally treats a person worse because of sex— such as by firing the person for actions or attributes it would tolerate in an individual of another sex—discriminates against that person in violation of Title VII.”
Gorsuch gives an example of discrimination:
“Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions in his female colleague.”
How can Christians be okay with such a scenario? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 intends to do what Christians should already be doing: making sure we are not treating people differently because they are different. Even if the law didn’t exist, our faith in Jesus should transform how we treat people. Since Christians hold fast to the imago dei—the image of God—present in all of us, we should be champions of civil rights. Indeed, aren’t LGBTQ+ more than just this part of their identities? They are people with likes, interests, skills, and wisdom. Those who are gay or transgender should be treated with the same respect and dignity as anyone else.
Christians should be totally against discrimination. You don’t even have to use the New Testament to show that God really hates partiality, unfairness, injustice, and discrimination. It’s built into the laws of Moses, all over the place in Proverbs, and a major theme in the Prophets. As one example in Leviticus 19:15, the law states: “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” Though this is applying to courts, it’s one example of how righteousness refuses to play favorites.
Even for those who are convicted that homosexuality or transgender identity is a sin, firing or refusing to hire them is not the right answer. Jesus hung out with all kinds of people—lepers, the tax collectors, fishermen, and Pharisees. All those people were considered either problematic or inferior by another group in the first century. But Jesus crosses divides. It’s un-Christ-like to cut off working relationships because you disagree with someone’s lifestyle.
Some Christians, like the Gospel Coalition as an example, are quick to point out how including sexual orientation and gender might have some wide-reaching consequences in future legislation. What they forget to mention is what the ruling is trying to do. The ruling is suggesting that you can’t fire someone just because you don’t agree with their gender identity or choice in partner. When the focus is shifted to “okay, but how does this affect us?” it misses the whole point of who it truly affects: those who have been discriminated against because of their gender and sexuality.
It’s important to remember this isn’t the final world on the subject. Even the majority opinion recognizes that this current ruling doesn’t factor in religious freedom. In fact, it bears mentioning that the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch said nothing about the “legitimacy” of LGBTQ+ identities—the intention here is only to prevent undue discrimination. It is to say that penalizing someone in the workplace because of who they are attracted to (or how they see themselves) is flat out wrong.
And as Christians, we should be on board for that. Even people we disagree with or don’t understand deserve protection from unfair hiring and firing. Conservatives and progressives should meet in this space: human rights are important.