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The Gorsuch Legal Alchemy


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The Gorsuch Legal Alchemy

by Richard A. Epstein

Monday, June 22, 2020

The United States Supreme Court has sent shockwaves through much of the nation with its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. By a six-to-three vote, the Court held in no uncertain terms that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to fire a person “simply” due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The basic statutory text of Title VII provides that it is “unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch argued that his textualist approach compelled the novel conclusion that the term “sex” includes not only biological sex, but also sexual orientation and gender identity. “In the context of an unambiguous statutory text,” he wrote, “whether or not a specific application was anticipated by Congress is irrelevant.” His argument is misguided. It holds that the meaning of the term “sex” necessarily bears no relation whatsoever to the intentions of the Congress that passed the legislation or the public who endorsed it.   :snip:

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