The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled Tuesday that LGBT employees are protected from workplace discrimination [opinion, PDF] under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act [text]. The plaintiff in the case was Kimberly Hively, who claims [AP report] that she was not hired by Ivy Tech Community College because of her sexual orientation. The judges found that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination barred under the act. The decision explains that:
Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual…. Hively’s claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction, and policing. The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man).
This is the first time that a federal appeals court has made this legal finding and it comes just a few weeks after a court in Atlanta made the opposite ruling.
Throughout the US, the rights of LGBT persons remain a highly controversial issue. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on Monday over a Mississippi law dealing with religious objections to same-sex marriage and would permit merchants to deny services to same-sex couples. Last month, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed [JURIST report] amendments to SB 196, repealing language that barred “advocacy of homosexuality” in Utah public schools. In February the Arkansas Supreme Court on ruled [JURIST report] that a Fayetteville city ordinance broadening nondiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation or gender identity was invalid under a state statute that prohibited cities from adopting or enforcing ordinances prohibiting discrimination beyond that barred by state law.