WASHINGTON, April 22 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that it would hear three cases determining whether existing federal civil rights laws protect individuals from LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.
The question has divided the country's lower courts, according to local media reports, noting two appeals courts ruled that employers violated Title VII by firing gay and transgender employees while a third said civil rights laws don't cover sexual orientation.
The Supreme 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 asking whether discrimination over sexual orientation falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights act.
U.S. federal law forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. However, it does not explicitly apply to LGBT individuals.
In 1989, the Supreme Court said Title VII bans discrimination based on an employee's failure to act according to sex-based expectations, ruling for a woman denied a promotion who was told to walk, talk, and dress femininely, wear make-up and jewelry, and have her hair styled.
In 1998, the court ruled that a heterosexual offshore oil rig worker could sue for sex discrimination even though he was sexually harassed by other men on the job.
The court will hear the cases in its next term which begins in October.
LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. These terms are used to describe a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.