Published: Sat, April 08, 2017
Markets | By Erika Turner

Losing Employer Won't Ask Supreme Court To Overturn Landmark Gay Rights Ruling

Losing Employer Won't Ask Supreme Court To Overturn Landmark Gay Rights Ruling

On April 4, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) ruled Title VII protects employees from sexual orientation discrimination.

The AP said that despite the decision being an outlier from similar past rulings, Ivy Tech has indicated that it does not intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a ruling that a gay rights group called a "game changer", a federal appeals court said companies can not discriminate against LGBT employees in the workplace due to their sexual orientation.

Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively initially brought forth the lawsuit in 2013, after four years of being denied a full-time teaching position at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana.

In Sykes' dissenting opinion, she addressed the group directly, saying that while "Lambda Legal's proposed new reading of Title VII. has a strong foothold in current popular opinion", such information "informs a case for legislative change and might eventually persuade the people's representatives to amend the statute to implement a new public policy" but that "it does not bear" on the legal question before the court as to the interpretation of Title VII. "We are not authorized to infuse the text with a new or unconventional meaning, or to update it to respond to changed social, economic, or political conditions", she wrote.

The ruling by the Chicago-based seventh USA circuit court of appeals guarantees an eventual hearing in the US supreme court given that just three weeks ago a Georgia court came to the opposite conclusion.

But because the ruling conflicts with all the others made by federal appellate courts since the 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately have to decide whether to uphold the Chicago ruling as national precedent or strike it down as judicial overreach. "It was just a kiss in the vehicle like millions of other people do", she said.

A ruling by a U.S. appeals court in Chicago reopens the question of whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act's protections apply to LGBT workers in the same way they bar discrimination based on someone's race, religion or national origin.

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Do you think it is safe to say that the writers of Title VII were including any kind of discrimination like sexual orientation? The court interpreted discrimination based on sex to include sexual orientation. "Simply put, sexual orientation discrimination doesn't classify people by sex; it doesn't draw male/female distinctions but instead targets homosexual men and women for harsher treatment than heterosexual men and women".

For a variety of reasons, which perhaps I'll go into in a separate post, I find the court's reasoning dubious. Tuesday, with all 11 members hearing the case, the court agreed that she'd been subjected to unlawful discrimination.

Ivy Tech argued that Congress has frequently considered adding sexual orientation to Title VII's protections but has stopped short of doing so. The Eleventh Circuit Court decided the Civil Rights Act does not protect LGBTQ workers. As a result, there is a split among circuit courts, which could likely pave the way for an eventual Supreme Court case that will determine the fate of protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers.

Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual.

The ruling is nearly certainly headed for the Supreme Court, where the justices are likely to be divided.

In a statement, Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said the college denies discriminating against Hively and rejects discrimination of all types. But the 7th Circuit found the word "sex" can just as well mean "sexual orientation".

Shortly after, Hively said she received a call at home from the school administration in response to a complaint that she was "sucking face", and she was reminded of her professionalism.

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