The most conservative court in the US in decades will decide whether to extend workplace protections to LGBTQ people
It is said that William Brennan, the great US supreme court justice, liked to greet his incoming law clerks with a bracingly simple definition of constitutional doctrine: five votes. “You can’t do anything around here,” Brennan would say, wiggling the fingers of his hand, “without five votes”.
Five votes. Five votes will presumably frame the court’s ruling in a trio of crucial employment-discrimination cases that were argued before the justices on Tuesday. All three cases focus on the scope of protections provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars workplace discrimination “because of … s*x”. Does such a bar prevent discrimination on the basis of s****l orientation? That is the question raised by the first two cases, Bostock v Clayton and Altitude Express v Zarda, while the third, Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC, asks whether Title VII’s bar also covers discrimination against transgender people.