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Court Rules Civil Rights Law Covers Sexual Orientation

by Countable | 2.27.18

What’s the story?

  • A federal appeals court in Manhattan has ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

  • Last year, the Trump administration filed a court brief stating that Congress had not intended Title VII to extend to sexual orientation.

Why does it matter?

  • "Sexual orientation discrimination – which is motivated by an employer’s opposition to romantic association between particular sexes – is discrimination based on the employee’s own sex," Judge Robert Katzmann wrote in the 10-3 opinion issued by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • Katzmann wrote that even though Congress had not addressed gay bias in Title VII, laws "often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils."

  • The ruling only applies to the 2nd Circuit Court's jurisdiction, which includes Connecticut, New York, and Vermont.

How’d the lawsuit come about?

  • Donald Zarda, a skydive instructor with Altitude Express, had reassured a nervous female customer not to worry about their close physical contact because he was "100-percent gay." The woman’s boyfriend complained to Altitude Express, who fired Zarda.

  • Zarda died in a base-jumping accident in 2014. But his sister said of the court’s ruling:

"I think this would have meant the world to him. I think he would have been very excited and very encouraged. I feel strongly that in the workplace employees should be evaluated based on their job performance and by their work ethic and never by who they love."

The Justice Department’s response

Devin O’Malley, a DOJ spokesman, said in an emailed statement:

"We remain committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress provided. The position that the department advocated in this case has been its longstanding position across administrations and remains the law of nine different Courts of Appeals."

What do you think?

Should Congress consider an official expansion of Title VII to include sexual orientation? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: Dendron / iStock)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(65)
  • OlderNWiser
    02/27/2018
    ···

    I’m pretty sure you agree with me that sexual orientation needs protection. We need to return to protecting and taking care of each other—all of us, regardless of orientation, ability, age, ethnicity, documentation.

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  • Sam
    02/27/2018
    ···

    Of course it should be expanded to cover sexual orientation. We can't pretend like these people don't need protections as we see quantifiable examples of LBGT people falling victim to discrimination every single day.

    Like (72)
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  • Brian
    02/27/2018
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    It’s nice to see the courts are not seeing the people of this country with the eyes of evil like the Republican Party and there base of bigots and the fact the trump admin filed the case says everything we need to know about cadet bone spurs

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  • Azrael
    02/27/2018
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    How many friggin times do we have to waste the court’s time with things that were already decided Start charging the individuals, states, counties, and individuals for the use of my services for this garbage We’ve been wasting time on roe v wade for close to 50 years Funny how the ones screaming family values the loudest are tapping their feet in public restrooms, getting caught with kiddie porn, screwing porn stars, cheating on their spouses, and blackmailing their lovers

    Like (26)
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  • Deirdre
    02/27/2018
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    We need to stop discrimination wherever it occurs and to whomever gets discriminated. It is the year 2018 and we need to protect all people regardless of their race, age, religion, sexuality and their gender. We need to stop the backward thinking and start moving forward. Every single life is sacred and deserves to be treated appropriately

    Like (24)
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  • Countryfirst
    02/27/2018
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    People like the money grubbing dictator worshipping republicans and whoever paxamericana scare the hell out if me..but they deserve protection LIKE ALL PEOPLE DO..AND KEEP YOUR OPINIONS OUT IF MY BEDROOM!

    Like (13)
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  • Courtney
    02/27/2018
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    Glad to see this, of course people should be protected from discrimination based on who they’re attracted to.

    Like (12)
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  • Mark
    02/27/2018
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    CIVIL RIGHTS ARE GUARANTEED BY THE US CONSTITUTION!! It protects EVERYONE in our country. WHY ARE THE COURTS EVEN RULING ON THIS? It’s a given

    Like (7)
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  • Cindylen
    02/27/2018
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    Glad to see the courts honoring civil rights.

    Like (6)
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  • RadicalModerate
    02/27/2018
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    I spiritually identify as a cannabis healer. I demand equal rights and protection under the law.

    Like (6)
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  • Kswen
    02/27/2018
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    Well this took long enough. Now, how about we move from theory to practice??

    Like (6)
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  • Courtney
    02/27/2018
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    Glad to see the courts making this official. This is a huge win for all minority groups, especially the LGBTQ+ community.

    Like (6)
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  • Leslie
    02/27/2018
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    Yes!

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  • Chris
    02/28/2018
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    As a gay man, I need my elected officials standing up for my rights especially with the current regime being vehemently anti-LGBT.

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  • Christine
    02/27/2018
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    👏👍🙏🌞❤️

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  • DavisTrev
    02/27/2018
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    Currently if you discriminate against someone (refusing employment, housing, or service as a customer for instance) based on their: race, it is illegal; religion, it is illegal; gender (m/f), it is illegal; orientation, it is LEGAL - that is until SCOTUS fixes this egregious hole in our system. We want simply Liberty and Justice FOR ALL, not just the straight!

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    02/28/2018
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    There should be no categories or classes of people that are protected. It should be that if you are a human being, you are protected. Assigning classifications and group names, etc., is just a Conservative form of placing people in groups that Conservatives feel you belong. Then we have to spend billions for lawyers and politicians and judges and all associated persons to create specific laws and modify laws and hear testimonies on new policies to protect or not protect specific groups of people. Then there are books of pages and websites created on thirst matters. There is storage costs associated with these documents. This is the definition of insanity. You and we are all being manipulated by Conservative ideologies that have pitted one group of human beings against another group of human beings, because of these classifications that have been placed on someone’s head. If all men are created equal, then there is need for only one group and that is homosapien. Stop being oppressed by the oppressors (Conservatives). Take back our country and our world and we can all live sanely without insanity, or drastically much less. Healthcare costs would come down substantially, as well.

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  • Gazal
    02/27/2018
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    EEOC is on the right side of history! Couldn’t be more proud.

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  • Jean-pierre
    02/28/2018
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    The topic of sexual orientation may have been fringe in 1964, but today it’s front and center - and rightly so. Should sexual orientation and identity be included? Yes.

    Like (3)
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  • SeanS
    02/27/2018
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    Can the Trump administration stop trying to make everyone’s lives worse? If this had happened fifty years ago they’d be saying the same thing about race. Donald, stay out of my sexual orientation.

    Like (3)
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