High court may re-examine Civil Rights Act after LGBT ruling

AUS appeals court, for the first time ever, on Tuesday ruled that federal civil rights law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. They said that it would be wrong to stretch the meaning of "sex" in the statute to include sexual orientation.

And Davidson has speculated that, if the question goes to the Supreme Court, its ultimate resolution "will control other federal laws barring sex discrimination, including Title IX (which governs discrimination in federally-funded educational programs), the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Pay Act, section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (which bars discrimination in health care and health care insurance), and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act". A lower court dismissed her suit, and a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her appeal.

"A policy that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation does not affect every woman, or every man, but it is based on assumptions about the proper behavior for someone of a given sex", Wood wrote. "It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the "sex" from 'sexual orientation'".

The ruling came from a lawsuit brought on by Kimberly Hively, an in teacher who argued that the Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend had passed on hiring her because of her sexual orientation as a lesbian.

"Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant - woman or man - dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex", Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the court.

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The ruling from the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago represents a major legal victory for the gay rights movement.

Lambda Legal, which handled Hively's lawsuit, said the school denied her a full-time job after she was seen kissing her then-girlfriend in the parking lot of the school.

In an opinion concurring with the majority, Judge Richard Posner wrote that changing norms call for a change in interpretation. Hively's case, Nevins said, will return to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of in, which previously had sided with Ivy Tech and dismissed Hively's case with prejudice.

The ruling on Tuesday comes as gay rights advocates have voiced concern about the potential rollback of protections under President Trump. Eight out of the 11 judges were appointed by Republican presidents. The debate among attorneys on the case revolved around whether a court could expand the statutory meaning of "sex" to protect LGBT employees or if the word should only apply to distinguishing workers as "male or female".

When similar cases come before them, they'll have to account for findings of the 7th Circuit, which Nevins said is well-respected for the intellectual rigor of its judges and so has tremendous influence on other courts.

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