Appeals court in Chicago rules in favor of banning LGBT job discrimination

U.S. Courthouse in Chicago
U.S. Courthouse in Chicago

A federal appeals court has ruled that federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace against LGBT employees, a first-of-its-kind ruling. The decision came from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Federal law forbids discrimination in the workplace based on an individuals race, color, religion, sex or national origin but does not explicitly include sexual orientation. The appeals court, in an 8-3 decision, said, “it would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation’.” The ruling comes as a victory for Kimberly Hively, a part-time profession at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana. She claimed she was denied a full-time position because she is a lesbian, saying that the college never interviewed her for a full-time position.

Federal law is catching up to public opinion

“90 percent of Americans already believe that LGBT employees should be valued for how well they do their jobs, not who they love or who they are,” said Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, the group representing Hively. “Now, through this case and others, that principle is backed up by the courts.”

Previously, any federal appeals court to consider whether gay employees are protected by non-discrimination rules have ruled that they are not. Chief Judge Diane Wood said the appeals court decision was based on previous Supreme Court decisions regarding employment discriminations and gay rights, “as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex.”

Last month, a federal appeals panel in Atlanta ruled against Jameka Evans, who said she was fired by her employer because she did not “carry herself in a traditional woman manner” at her job as a hospital security guard.