The Following post originally appeared on Vox, and was written by German Lopez. The piece appeared under the original title, “How The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Could Protect LGBT Workers.”

By: German Lopez

Exactly 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law is being interpreted to protect LGBT workers.

The Civil Rights Act prohibits various forms of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The question for LGBT advocates is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which in part prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming workers.

The Supreme Court in 1989 decided that Title VII protects workers from sexual stereotyping. LGBT advocates argue those prohibited stereotypes include women wearing feminine clothing, men marrying women, and other social expectations that discriminate against LGBT people.

“It’s pretty uncontroversial that discriminating against a man that acts too effeminate or a woman that acts too masculine is a form of sex discrimination,” says ACLU LGBT and AIDS Project staff attorney Josh Block. “That applies to lesbians and gay men too.”

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agrees with LGBT advocates. In multiple rulings in 2011 and 2012, EEOC concluded that Title VII’s protections against sex discrimination also protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming workers.

he EEOC rulings, however, aren’t the law of the land. They are simply one very important body’s take on the issue. While the Obama administration intends to enforce the EEOC’s ruling to protect LGBT federal employees, courts facing workplace discrimination cases typically consider the EEOC rulings as expert advisories and nothing more.

The EEOC and Supreme Court, for example, once disagreed on whether federal law prevents discriminatory pay practices against women. It took congressional action — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — to settle the dispute in favor of equal pay for women.

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