A federal appeals court on Monday ruled
that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Second Circuit overruled a 3-judge panel's ruling in a case involving
a deceased skydiver who claims he was fired for being gay.
Plaintiff in the case is the estate of
Donald Zarda, which claims that his employer, Altitude Express, fired
him because of his sexual orientation. Last year, a 3-judge panel
ruled against Zarda, saying that Title VII does not apply to sexual
orientation. Lawyers in the case appealed to the full court.
“Sexual orientation discrimination
constitutes a form of discrimination 'because of … sex,' in
violation of Title VII,” U.S. Chief Circuit Judge Robert Katzman
wrote in a 69-page en banc decision from the full court.
Three of the court's 10 judges
The Trump administration filed a
friend-of-the-court brief in which it argued that Title VII does not
prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The
Department of Justice, which is led by Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, filed the brief on the same day that President Donald Trump
announced in a series of tweets that the military will no longer
“accept or allow” transgender troops.
Several courts, most recently the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, have held that Title
VII's prohibition on sex discrimination applies to discrimination
based on a person's sexuality. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
reached the opposite conclusion.
Greg Nevins, who argued before the
court on behalf of Zarda, called the decision “huge.”
“It really changes the dynamics about
how people talk about who's winning this argument,” Nevins told the
Blade. “Nobody can call Hively an outlier. We now
have an overwhelming victory in two circuits – out in Chicago, and
out of New York now – and both of them were lopsided.'