In what is the most significant federal court decision since the US Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit found yesterday that federal employment non-discrimination protections apply to gay, lesbian and bisexual workers.
This is the first time in history that a federal court has applied Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition on sex-based employment discrimination to cover sexual orientation. A 2011 ruling from a different appellate court found that these protections apply to transgender people. That case, Glenn v. Brumby et. al., involved a transgender Georgia General Assembly employee.
The facts of this case, Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, center around an Indiana woman named Kimberly Hively. Hively is a former part-time employee of Ivy Tech Community College, where she was discriminated against when the school denied her full time employment because she is a lesbian.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) April 4, 2017
The Court ruled 8–3 in favor of Hively, finding that Ivy Tech’s discriminatory treatment of her on the basis of her sexual orientation was unlawful.
Because this ruling is an appellate decision, two things can happen now: Ivy Tech could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, or it could refuse to appeal the decision, meaning that gay and lesbian employees in the Seventh District—which covers Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin—will continue to be protected from employment discrimination under federal law.
However, there are several similar cases pending right now in appellate courts across the country that could result in this case being elevated to the Supreme Court. One of those is Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, whose plaintiff, Jameka Evans, is a Savannah woman who was fired from her job as a security guard because she is a lesbian.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the Eleventh Circuit is currently deciding if they will grant a full review of Jameka’s case. If they do, and the full Court rules against Jameka, the question of whether or not employment discrimination against gay and lesbian workers is illegal could go before the Supreme Court.
It is hard to overstate how significant the Hively case is to the movement to pass LGBT non-discrimination protections. Now, for the first time in U.S. history, there is legal precedent that says discriminating against gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees is unconstitutional. As we continue to press forward in courts and legislatures across Georgia and the country, this case will go down in history as laying the foundation for LGBT non-discrimination protections nationwide.SHARE THIS STORY