Federal Appeals Court Rules the Civil Rights Act DOES Protect Gay Workers from Discrimination

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A federal appeals court ruled that the Civil Rights Act does indeed prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) argued against the Justice Department that the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was definitely meant to protect individuals from discrimination based on their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” along with sexual orientation.

The Federal Government Was at Odds

So, why did this matter have to be settled by a court? The story actually starts in 2010 when a gay sky diving instructor told a female student that he was gay. The disclosure was made after the student was teased by her boyfriend about being strapped tightly against the body of another man. The attempt at appeasing the situation cost the instructor his job and he filed a lawsuit.

Last year as the federal appeal began, the Justice Department filed a brief that disagreed with the EEOC and stated that was not “speaking for the United States.” The Deputy Assistant of the Justice Department, Hashim M. Mooppan, stated that under federal law he believed that employers had the right “to regulate employees’ off-the-job sexual behavior.”

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Federal Appeals Court: Employers Cannot Discriminate on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

The decision, authored by the Second Circuit’s Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, stated, in part, “We see no principled basis for recognizing a violation of Title VII for associational discrimination based on rex but not on sex.” The decision went on to read “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.”

Will This Matter Be Heard by the Supreme Court?

This is the second U.S. Circuit court to rule that employers may not discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation. While an appeal to the Supreme Court may be made, they declined to review a case with the same question in December of 2017.