The US Supreme Court has ruled that existing legislation protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace.
In two separate decisions passed on Monday, the court found that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination based on sex, extends to sexual orientation and trans status.
Equality advocates have welcomed the victory, particularly given the increasingly conservative attitudes of the federal government.
The Trump administration had urged the court to rule that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which covers sex-based discrimination, did not include LGBTQ protections, NBC News has reported.
“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the Justice Department had stated.
“An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships.”
While acknowledging that orientation was not the intended meaning of the Act, gay rights groups have highlighted that an employer firing a male worker for dating men, but not a female employee for doing the same, is in violation of civil rights law.
The ruling means that federal law now protects LGBTQ employees in the dozens of states that remain without their own anti-discrimination laws for people of diverse gender and sexuality.
One of the cases decided on Monday was in relation to Aimee Stephens, a Michigan woman who was fired ostensibly for not following her employer’s dress code after coming out as trans, who died last month of chronic kidney disease.
The court rulings come as the Trump administration continues to be criticised for its attacks on LGBTQ rights.
The US federal government last week announced that trans people will no longer be protected from discrimination in healthcare, leaving them at risk of being refused everyday treatment.