History was recently made in the fight against LGBT equality when the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down an 8-3 ruling that the Civil Acts Right of 1964 protects people in the aforementioned category from workplace discrimination. The court made this groundbreaking ruling after reviewing the case Hively vs. Ivy Tech, en banc, and its impact is far reaching because prior to this ruling, no federal appellate court had come to that conclusion.
With this ruling, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation now classifies as a form of sex discrimination. The plaintiff in this case was a teacher who was continuously turned down for full-time employment at a community college in South Bend, Indiana despite making six attempts. She accused the college of firing her because she is a lesbian, and she was represented by the national LGBT rights legal defense organization, Lambda Legal.
During the case review, one of the judges signaled that he was in agreement with the merits of Hively’s case when he got the opportunity to ask questions. Judge Richard Posner questioned who would be hurt if gays and lesbians had increased employment protection, and when no one could come up with a plausible answer to this question, he suggested that ensuring such protection should not be a difficult thing to provide.
The ruling reasoned that because Ivy Tech would not promote Hively based on the fact that she is a woman attracted to other women, she was being discriminated against because of her sex, and that this form of discrimination is not allowed.
In the decision document, it was clear that this ruling was made in the context of a society where sexual harassment and discrimination is all too common, and gender nonconformity continues to be an obstacle for many. Judge Posner used Fox News as an example of such a work environment, and he also wrote about how women are discriminated against for not adhering to stereotypical gender roles, which do not include homosexuality.
This ruling was quickly celebrated on social media as a victory for LGBT rights, with Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven tweeting that ‘love won again today’.