Friday, April 14, 2017

1964 Civil Rights Act Protects LGBT Workers Court Rules

Math professor Kimberly Hively wins on argument that sexual orientation discrimination equals sex discrimination. Math professor Kimberly Hively wins on argument that sexual orientation discrimination equals sex discrimination.

Chicago– In a landmark decision for LGBTQ rights, a full panel of the 7th Circuit Court has ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes sex discrimination and is therefore prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This is the first ruling of its kind from a federal court and contradicts a recent ruling by the 11th Circuit which found that sexual orientation was not covered under Title VII. However, in the case of Kimberly Hively, a math professor from Indiana who was represented by Lambda Legal, the 7th Circuit ruled in her favor that Title VII covers sexual orientation. The Supreme Court has not decided the issue but may have to resolve the split among the Circuit Courts of Appeal at some point.

Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote that sexual orientation concerns gender stereotypes, a factor already established as sex discrimination by court precedent. “If we were to change the sex of one partner in a lesbian relationship, the outcome would be different. This reveals that the discrimination rests on distinctions drawn according to sex,” Wood wrote in the ruling. “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.”

A dissenter to the ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Sykes, was recently short-listed for a Trump administration Supreme Court nomination before missing the cut. Sykes wrote in her dissent that the ruling was a case of judicial overreach. “We are not authorized to infuse the text with a new or unconventional meaning or to update it to respond to changed social, economic, or political conditions,” according to Sykes. The defendant in the case, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, does not plan to appeal and noted that sexual-orientation discrimination is specifically barred by the school’s policies. (Q Notes Online – Maria Dominguez at


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