Appeals Court Rules That Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Workers

Illustration for article titled Appeals Court Rules That Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Workers
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On Monday, a Manhattan US Appeals court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on their sexual identity as well as their gender. Real kick in the pants day for the Trump administration.


Reuters reports that the case was filed by a man named Donald Zarda, who worked as a skydiving instructor on Long Island at a company called Altitude Express Inc. In 2010, Zarda told a customer he was gay, she complained, and he was subsequently fired. Zarda died in a base jumping incident before the case came to a close, but the majority ruled in his favor in a 10-3 decision, stating LGBTQ workers are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Buzzfeed News reports that the court ruled that LGBTQ discrimination would not exist “but for” someone’s sex; one is part of the other.

“A woman who is subject to an adverse employment action because she is attracted to women would have been treated differently if she had been a man who was attracted to women,” the majority wrote in an opinion led by Judge Robert Katzmann. “We can therefore conclude that sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination.”

This is a slap in the sagging, hateful face of the Justice Department, which had inserted itself into the case in what seemed like an attempt to expand its freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people. According to the New York Times, the DOJ was arguing against government lawyers from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal agency versus federal agency. The EEOC supported the notion that Title VII covers anti-gay discrimination, and were supported in that under Obama’s administration.

Kinda awkward that Trump’s administration disagrees, but how else would they push through all their anti-trans bathroom bills and support local bigoted bakers? According to Reuters, this is the second circuit court to find that this form of discrimination is protected against under Title VII. The Justice Department and Altitude Express could now potentially take their case to the Supreme Court, though it declined a similar case from Georgia in December.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



Pedant alert.

Neatness counts. Sexual identity is not the same as sexual orientation, both in real life and in legal terms. This case is about sexual orientation, not sexual or gender identity. It’s a distinct win for gay folks, but it is not necessarily a win for trans or gender unaligned folks because it does not address that question. Courts are free to split those hairs, and do.

Thus, the headline should read “Appeals Court Rules That Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers,” because that’s what the Appeals Court ruled.