Justice Alito says Supreme Court discrimination ruling is like a pirate ship falsely sailing 'under a textualist flag'

Samuel Alito.
(Image credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who on Monday wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court's groundbreaking 6-3 ruling that outlaws employment discrimination against LGBTQ people, took a textualist approach to the decision, arguing the written law takes precedent over the lawmakers' assumed intent. His colleague and fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito, however, thinks Gorsuch actually betrayed the originalist approach, championed by his predecessor Justice Antonin Scalia.

In his lengthy dissent, Alito wrote that Gorsuch's majority "tries to convince readers" that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination because of "sex," also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Alito believes that goes against the court's duty of interpreting terms to "mean what they conveyed to reasonable people at the time they were written."

The majority, Alito argues, is equivalent to a "pirate ship" that sails under a "textualist flag," but actually represents the court's attempt to update old statutes "so they can better reflect the current values of society." From Alito's perspective, new legislation is the only thing that could render employment discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal.

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Some observers have noted, however, that Alito's dissent may have misinterpreted the majority opinion. Tim O'Donnell

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.