A U.S. appeals court has ruled that federal civil rights law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace.
The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois represents a major legal victory for the gay rights movement. The name of the case is Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College.
In its 8-3 decision, the court reversed decades of rulings that gay people are not protected by the milestone civil rights law because they are not specifically mentioned in it.
“For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation,” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority. “We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”
The ruling also allows a lawsuit to go forward in Indiana where plaintiff Kimberly Hively alleges she lost her community college teaching job because she is a lesbian.
“I have been saying all this time that what happened to me wasn’t right and was illegal,” Hively said in a statement released by the gay rights legal organization, Lambda Legal, which represents her. In so doing, the full appeals court overruled a decision by a smaller panel of its judges to uphold the district court’s decision in the college’s favor.
To reach its conclusion, the court examined 20 years of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on issues related to gay rights, including the high court’s 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry, Wood wrote.