Plaintiff: Time to stop punishing LGBT people

  • Plaintiff: Time to stop punishing LGBT people

Plaintiff: Time to stop punishing LGBT people

With a lopsided majority joined by a bipartisan coalition of judges, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held on Tuesday that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law, at least in the context of the workplace.

Her case marks the first time a federal appeals court has ruled that existing civil rights laws protect against discrimination 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.

In Sykes' dissenting opinion, she addressed the group directly, saying that while "Lambda Legal's proposed new reading of Title VII. has a strong foothold in current popular opinion", such information "informs a case for legislative change and might eventually persuade the people's representatives to amend the statute to implement a new public policy" but that "it does not bear" on the legal question before the court as to the interpretation of Title VII.

In so doing, the full appeals court overruled a decision by a smaller panel of its judges to uphold the district court's decision in the college's favor.

"I don't see why firing a lesbian because she is in the subset of women who are lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she's a woman", wrote the judge, who was appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan.

"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 Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. Today the 7th Circuit said clearly: that's wrong. A three-judge panel ruled against Hively in July 2016, but Lambda Legal requested a rehearing of the case by the full panel of the Seventh Circuit - all eleven judges.

"It is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex", Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority.

Previously, federal appeals courts had already made similar rulings for transgender workers, concluding that civil rights laws already protect against discrimination based on gender identity. Hively's case, Nevins said, will return to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of in, which previously had sided with Ivy Tech and dismissed Hively's case with prejudice. "And it has taken still longer, with a substantial volume of cases struggling and failing to maintain a plausible, defensible line between sex discrimination and sexual-orientation discrimination, to realize that homosexuality is nothing worse than failing to fulfill stereotypical gender roles".

In reaching this conclusion, Wood acknowledges that the lawmakers who drafted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 probably did not expect it to be used this way. She believed the rejections were related to her sexual orientation, so she filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit - arguing this anti-gay discrimination was illegal under federal law.

"It is well-nigh certain that homosexuality, male or female, did not figure in the minds of the legislators who enacted Title VII", he wrote in his concurring opinion.

Ivy Tech said on Tuesday night that it does not intend to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.