It's the biggest decision in favor of the LGBTQ community since the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage.
The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit made a decision last Tuesday in favor of gay rights and in the name of the Civil Rights Act after a landslide vote of 8-3. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that workers cannot be discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, or national origin and the appeals court determined that this includes being discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
“It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’ The effort to do so has led to confusing and contradictory results,” Chief Judge Diane Wood concluded in the majority opinion.
The case involved that of Kimberly Hively, an openly lesbian woman who applied for multiple positions at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, though she was never offered a full-time position. She believed that these rejections were based on her sexual orientation, and filed a complaint and lawsuit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once the case made it to the Seventh Circuit appeals court, their decision in her favor reversed previous decisions made in her case.
Although this was a decision by a federal court, it only applies to the region made up of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but this decision could be referenced by others that are planning to sue someone on the same basis anywhere else in the country. As far as big decisions go, this has been the biggest one yet since the Supreme Court’s decision that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states. Ending discrimination has been at the forefront of many LGBTQ organizations’ efforts ever since same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015.
“In many cities and states across the country, lesbian and gay workers are being fired because of who they love,” Greg Nevins, employment fairness program director for the LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This decision is gamechanger for lesbian and gay employees facing discrimination in the workplace and sends a clear message to employers: It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”
This isn’t the first time that courts have ruled in favor of members of the LGBTQ community when it comes to workplace discrimination. Other appeals courts have sided with transgender workers in the past, which was referenced in the decision by the Seventh Circuit appeals court.
Most states don’t explicitly ban LGBTQ discrimination, giving employers leeway when it comes to deciding who to fire and who to hire. This isn’t just a problem in the workplace, either; members of the LGBTQ community can often be legally discriminated against when it comes to public accommodations and housing simply because there are no explicit rules against doing so.