42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) is a Reconstruction-era statute that allows one to recover damages from those that conspire to deprive one of one’s constitutional or statutory rights. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court began requiring a showing of discriminatory animus in order to confer liability under the statute. The lower courts have since found that allegations of discriminatory animus against LGBT folks are insufficient to satisfy the requirement. Most circuits have also held that sex-based discrimination is cognizable under § 1985(3), citing federal law’s condemnation of the practice. Other circuits have found sex-based discrimination cognizable under the statute as well, but for opaque reasons. And others still have concluded that § 1985(3) does not reach sex-based discrimination at all, appealing to its legislative history.
Then in 2020, the Supreme Court decided Bostock v. Clayton County, with Justice Neil Gorsuch establishing a new interpretation of Title VII’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination. This Comment argues that Justice Gorsuch’s opinion is not merely relevant for the scope of Title VII but also has ramifications for the scope of § 1985(3) because it gives rise to three key propositions: (1) federal law now condemns anti-LGBT discrimination, affording special protections to LGBT folks; (2) discrimination against LGBT folks necessarily constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex; and (3) legislative history should only be used if the relevant statute is genuinely ambiguous. Justice Gorsuch has thus provided LGBT plaintiffs with a master key, suggesting arguments tailored to each circuit’s position on sex-based discrimination, such that any circuit should permit LGBT folks to use § 1985(3) in the wake of Bostock.