At the end of the San Diego Pride Parade, spectators gather under a large rainbow flag as it is moved along the parade route. Photo by Chris Stone

Local and state elected officials Monday hailed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming that employers cannot fire or take discriminatory actions against employees based on sexual orientation or gender preference.

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins called the ruling “long overdue.”

“One of the first laws I wrote clarified the definition of gender in certain anti-discrimination laws so that ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ are included in references to gender,” Atkins said in a statement. “That law has provided additional protections for California’s LGBTQ workers since 2012. The Supreme Court’s holding affirms that protection throughout our country.”

San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, who is running for Congress, said the Supreme Court decision is a “historic win.”

“It’s hard to understate how big this is in the fight for equality,” Gomez said in a campaign statement. “Yesterday, it was legal to fire employees for being LGBTQ in 27 states. Under today’s landmark ruling — it’s now illegal in all 50.”

Congresswoman Susan Davis had similar words of support.

“This ruling is a massive victory for equality, freedom, and the values on which our nation was founded,” Davis said in a press release. “I’m glad to see that a majority of the court still believes in the Constitution. No one should lose their job based on who they are or who they love.”

The 6-3 ruling affirmed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protections against discriminating against people for their gender and sexual orientation.

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the ruling. “The answer is clear: An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The ruling came in a case dubbed Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which Gerald Bostock argued he was fired as a county employee “simply for being homosexual or transgender,” court documents show.

Bostock was allegedly fired for “unbecoming” behavior of a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league, according to court documents.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also praised the ruling.

“Nobody should ever have to fear losing their job simply because of who they are or whom they love,” Newsom said. “Today’s Supreme Court decision rights this injustice and brings the country in line with what has long been California law, ensuring that LGBTQ persons across our nation enjoy core civil rights legal protection at work. While the fight for equality continues, this ruling is a significant victory for the LGBTQ community, civil rights and against discrimination.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed the dissenting opinion, saying that under the Constitution’s separation of powers, the responsibility to amend the employment clause of the Civil Rights Act “belongs to Congress and the president in the legislative process, not to this Court.” Kavanaugh also said additional laws have been passed by Congress to protect people from workplace discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes after the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday finalized a rule that would remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people regarding health care and health insurance.

“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights in the HHS, in a written statement.

The rule is set to go into effect by mid-August.

— City News Service and staff reports

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