The statute has barred discriminations based on “sex” as well as race. As Justice Alito pointed out, virtually no one in 1964 could have dreamed that the statute barred those who would have an aversion to the homosexual life or the transgendered. But I warned myself, in an earlier piece, that it just would not do for the conservatives to cite the dictionaries on the meaning of sex in 1964. The liberals would be free to play the trump card of Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull had steered the Fourteenth Amendment to passage in the Senate, and he had to assure his colleagues up and down that there was nothing in the Equal Protection Clause that barred those laws in Illinois as well as Virginia that barred marriage across racial lines. But now we have an amplified and clearer sense of why that principle on racial discrimination would bar those laws on miscegenation. Judges could easily argue now in the same way that we must bring to the Civil Rights Act a more amplified view of what “sex” has come to mean. The only way to deal with that argument is to make the move that conservative judges have been so averse to making: to move beyond the text of the statute to those objective truths, confirmed in nature, on the differences that must ever separate males from females.
That was the understanding of “sex” that Justice Alito had in mind as he countered every case and example cited by Gorsuch. Justice Gorsuch noted the many ways in which the meaning of discrimination on the basis of sex could extend to sexual harassment or simply treating people differently on the basis of sex. A woman is refused a job because she has children at home, while the job is not refused to a man with children at home. But as Alito points out, at every turn the discrimination pivots on the difference between men and women, as that difference has been plain enough for millennia. The Western States had long established policies barring discriminations based on “sex” in education, and the Nineteenth Amendment had drawn on the same understanding when it barred the denial of the right to vote “on account of sex.” It was understood in all cases that the laws were assuming the biological definition of sex.
Ryan Anderson, drawing on the full range of texts in biology, condensed the truth of the matter in this way: “Sex, in terms of male or female, is identified by the organization of the organism for sexually reproductive acts.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith noted years ago that there has not always been an Italy or Hungary, but as long as there are human beings, there will be males and females. That is the purpose, or the telos, or the very reason that we have males and females. This was the understanding that Justice Alito was seeking so artfully to defend. But he defended it entirely as the meaning of sex contained in a long list of statutes and the Constitution. What he could not quite move himself to say was that this was indeed the inescapable truth of the matter, the only coherent way of explaining what sex must really mean. There is something, in the shaping of conservative judges, that makes them deeply reluctant to make that move beyond “tradition” and statutes to the moral truth of the matter.
Read it all.