Appeals Court Says Sex Discrimination Law Applies to Gay and Lesbian Discrimination

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An appeals court ruled that a federal civil rights law on sex discrimination can now be used for sexual orientation discrimination claims, the first time an appellate court has concluded such.

In an 8-3 decision made Tuesday, the full court of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Kimberly Hively, a lesbian who sued Ivy Tech Community College, arguing that the school discriminated against her on the basis of her sexual orientation.

Authored by Judge Diane Wood, the decision concluded that Hively could sue Ivy Tech on the basis of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which pertains in part to sex discrimination.

“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. The Supreme Court, however, has never spoken to that question,” wrote Wood.

“In this case, we have been asked to take a fresh look at our position in light of developments at the Supreme Court extending over two decades. We have done so, and we conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

Judge Diane Sykes wrote the dissent, which was joined by two other justices on the Seventh Circuit, wherein she argued that the majority opinion goes against legal precedent regarding the interpretation of Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination.
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