The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear three cases determining whether federal law protects LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace.
The court, in an unsigned order, said it would review all three cases on the matter, but ordered that two of the cases be combined into one argument.
The two merged cases asked whether discrimination over sexual orientation falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights act. The statue blocks discrimination in the workplace because of sex.
The court said it will also examine if the same federal statute protects transgender people in the workplace, based on their transgender identification.
The cases offer the opportunity for the Supreme Court to expand work discrimination protections to LGBTQ communities. Lower courts, so far, have been divided on the issue.
In one case, Gerald Lynn Bostock — a gay man — alleges he was fired by a Georgia county because of his sexual orientation. Another case similarly asks whether a sky diving instructor, Donald Zarda, was also fired after he revealed he was gay to a customer. Zarda, who has since died, is being represented in the case by the executors of his estate.
Those two instances have been combined into one case, with the high court considering whether federal anti-discrimination law protecting individuals from sex-based discrimination also applies to sexual orientation.
In the third case, a transgender woman revealed her identity to her employer — a funeral home run by a "devout Christian" — saying she planned to present as a woman at work ahead of sex reassignment surgery. The woman, Aimee Stephens, was then fired.
Her legal team initially asked the court to consider whether federal anti-discrimination law also applied to gender identity.
But the Supreme Court on Monday said that it will only consider if federal law applies to transgender identity and if a prior ruling blocks employers from requiring that employees follow sex-specific policies based on their sex, rather than their gender identity.
Updated at 10:45 a.m.