Supreme Court Considers Whether Civil Rights Act Protects L.G.B.T. Workers

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Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.CreditCreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In a pair of exceptionally hard-fought arguments on Tuesday, the Supreme Court struggled to decide whether a landmark 1964 civil rights law bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status.

Job discrimination against gay and transgender workers is legal in much of the nation, and the wide-ranging arguments underscored the significance of what could be a momentous ruling. If the court decides that the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, applies to many millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees across the nation, they would gain basic protections that other groups have long taken for granted.

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