Discrimination against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, 1964

United States Court of Appeals: Pronouncing a landmark decision addressing a vital issue that whether prohibition against discrimination on basis of sex excludes discrimination on basis of an individual’s sexual orientation, the Court (at the Seventh Circuit) with a ratio of 8:3, held that discrimination against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.

The dispute in the instant case pertained to the blocking of fulltime employment of the plaintiff-appellant for several posts in the Ivy Tech Community College. The plaintiff-appellant is openly lesbian. It was alleged by the plaintiff appellant that she was being discriminated because of her sexual orientation, and that her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964 are being violated. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.

The 11-Judge Bench headed by Chief Judge Wood perused the development of law on the point by the Supreme Court of United States for about two decades. It was observed that the Supreme Court currently has taken no stand upon the question; therefore it was pleaded before this Court to take a fresh look at the issue. The Court clearly stated that the issue before them is that, “what it means to discriminate on the basis of sex, and in particular, whether actions taken on the basis of sexual orientation are a subset of actions taken on the basis of sex”. It was further observed that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015 announced that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination encompasses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. One of the Judges siding with the majority opinion even observed that why firing or discriminating against a lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she is a woman. [Kimberly Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, No. 15-1720, decided on 04.04.2017]

 

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