Appeals Court rules Civil Rights Act Applies To LGBT Workers

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images

For now, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal

Hi. Welcome to 2017. We are so glad you are here! For the first time ever, a federal court has extended civil rights protections to LGBT employees under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means companies cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual identity or preference. This is a BIG deal, folks.

The Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” but doesn’t offer explicit protections for gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s only been in the last few decades that the act has been interpreted as applying to LGBT Americans.

Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights Act which deals with discrimination on the basis of sex. The 7th Circuit became the first federal appellate court in the country to extend the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, USA Today reports. This is critical given you can still get fired from your job for being gay or transgender in 28 states.

The 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative–five of the eight judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents, making the 8-3 decision all the more remarkable.

The case stems from a lawsuit brought by an Indiana teacher named Kimberly Hively who alleged that the Ivy Tech Community College didn’t hire her full time because she is a lesbian. Because of this ruling, Hively will now have her day in court.

The issue could potentially land in front of the Supreme Court at some point in the future. A GOP-majority House and Senate make it unlikely our Congress will amend the Civil Rights Act, given their recent position to the contrary. And the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals just last month found that Title VII does not bar claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. So unfortunately the 7th Circuit Court’s decision may not be the final say in the matter.

The ruling is great news and arguably forward motion for laws to protect people from being discriminated against for their sexual identity. But we still want to scratch our eyeballs out because it’s 2017 and why, oh why, are there people out there fighting for the right to discriminate against anyone– period?

Someone can say “I have every right to fire you because you are gay, it’s the law.” Well, so was slavery once but we have all evolved as a society and just because something is law, doesn’t make it right. Hiding behind the law in order to discriminate against someone just makes someone a bigot.

“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,” CNN reports. “We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

For today at least, victory is sweet.

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