Despite gains, LGBT protections remain a patchwork in US

06 April, 2017, 02:39 | Author: Michele Stevens

A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that a 1964 law barring sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation, marking a major workplace victory for gays and lesbians.

CHICAGO (AP) — Companies can not discriminate against LGBT employees in the workplace due to their sexual orientation, a federal appeals court said, in a ruling that a gay rights group called a "game changer".

"It is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex", she added. "While the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, many other legal protections, including in employment and housing, have not been extended at all levels to gay people".

Gorsuch's judicial philosophy of focusing on the original texts to resolves conflicts over the law suggests he'd sympathize with the views of the three dissenting 7th Circuit judges.

The decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sends the case involving Kim Hively, a former IN community college teacher who claims she was denied promotions and let go from her job because she is a lesbian, back to a federal district court IN Indiana. The ruling could give an opening to protect discrimination based on gender identity, too, if more federal appeals courts move to interpret "sex" as an indicator of gender identity.

The landmark case involved a teacher, Kimberly Hively, who alleged that an IN community college would not hire her on a full-time basis because she's lesbian.

"Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant-woman or man-dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex", wrote the majority.

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Gay rights organizations are hailing a Chicago appeals court ruling as a "game changer".

"Greg Nevins, the employment fairness program director for Lambda Legal, which represented Ms. Hively, called the ruling a "tremendous victory".

Debate in the Hively case revolved around the meaning of the word "sex" in Title VII, the section of the law that deals with discrimination.

The dissent was written by Judge Diane Sykes, who though conceding that Hively "was treated unjustly" if she had been fired due to being a lesbian, argued that "Title VII does not provide a remedy for this kind of discrimination".

This ruling follows back-and-forth by the Trump administration on LGBT protections in the workplace. But in February, it revoked guidance on transgender students' use of public school bathrooms, deferring to states. Five of the eight judges who ruled in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents.

When similar cases come before them, they'll have to account for findings of the 7th Circuit, which Nevins said is well-respected for the intellectual rigor of its judges and so has tremendous influence on other courts. "That means that it falls within Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination".

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