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LGBT Employer Discrimination Cases Work Their Way Up the Courts
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Summary: LGBT employer discrimination cases are getting closer to the top of the legal system where the Supreme Court may be forced to take on the issue.

Things are looking like the Supreme Court will be ruling on employment discrimination matters involving sexual orientation within the next year. It has been two years since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution.


Now LGBT supporters are seeking to see the same rights extended to existing civil rights law so that gay employees are protected from discrimination by their employer. They are hoping that the Supreme Court Justices will be the ones to finally make a ruling on this issue in their favor.

A New York federal appeals court heard arguments regarding one case where an employee claims she was fired because of her sexual orientation. Another case is asking the Supreme Court to take a look at theirs. Both cases are arguing over whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal law bans employment discrimination because of gender. They argue that the law should extend to sexual orientation.

Lawyer Joshua Matz, who has followed the issue closely on his law blog Take Care, believes the Supreme Court will take on the issue. He wrote, “It’s a matter of national importance, affecting employees and employers from every walk of life.”

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Generally courts have denied the claims but last April, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals with Judge Diane Wood writing for the majority allowed a claim from Kimberly Hively to continue. She had sued Ivy Tech Community College when they denied her employment based on her belief that her sexual orientation was the reason. She used on the basis that the school violated Title VII.

The court wrote, “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. That means that it falls within Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, if it affects employment in one of the specified ways.”

Wood saw that discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation is discriminating them because of their sex. Matz explains, “For instance, if an employer fires a female employee because she is married to a woman, but would not fire an otherwise identical male employee married to a woman, the employee’s sex is properly seen as having caused the termination.”

Judge Diane Sykes, in a dissenting vote, said, “The two traits are categorically distinct.” Either way, Ivy Tech has decided not to appeal the case so the ruling stands. However, the other similar cases are still moving forward through the court system.

These other cases include a lawsuit brought by security guard Jameka Evans, who claims her employer, a hospital, discriminated against her because of sexual orientation. Her case made it to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals where she lost. Her lawyers are appealing to the Supreme Court.

Government lawyers state that while “notable changes in societal and cultural attitudes about such discrimination” has changed in the past few years. However, they explain that those changes in views “do not present courts with a license to rewrite a constitutionally valid statutory text under the banner of speculation about what Congress might have done to implement a clear statute’s policy objectives.”

Do you think the law includes sexual orientation? Or does it need to be changed to cover that specific area? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about LGBT legal fights, read these articles:



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