A federal appeals court has ruled for the first time that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the U.S. Supreme Court over the scope of the 53-year-old law.
The 8-to-3 decision on April 4 by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago came just three weeks after a three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled the opposite, saying employers can discriminate based on sexual orientation.
LGBT rights organizations hailed the Chicago ruling as a “game changer,” in part because the 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative.
The majority opinion and dissent in the case highlight a sharp difference between judges who say the interpretation of laws can change with the times and those who say judges should apply them as written.
Here’s the reaction…
U.S. Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and vice-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said, “The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the right of all Americans to be able to work freely without discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It is important that the protections provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes sex discrimination in its multiple forms. Although this is an important step forward, we must ensure we continue to fight for full equality for our LGBT community both in employment and in broader society.”
“This critically important circuit court decision has adopted a well-grounded legal analysis concluding that our nation’s civil rights laws include sexual orientation,” said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow. “Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love. This court joins five others that have ruled these laws also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We congratulate plaintiff Kimberly Hively, Lambda Legal and all the attorneys who helped achieve this victory.”