For the first time in U.S. history, it is now illegal to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The 8-3 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit declares that LGBTQ Americans are covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. It overturns an earlier decision by a three-judge panel against Kimberly Hively, who was fired from Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana, for being a lesbian.
“It is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex,” wrote Chief Judge Diane Wood in the majority opinion.
Lambda Legal, the LGBTQ legal organization that fought the firing, hailed the victory. The group’s Employment Fairness Project Director, Greg Nevins, said that the win is a “game-changer for lesbian and gay employees facing discrimination in the workplace and sends a clear message to employers: It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Judge Richard Posner echoed Wood’s sentiment in a concurrence, writing: “I don’t see why firing a lesbian because she is in the subset of women who are lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she’s a woman.”
There is no understating the magnitude of this victory for the millions of LGBTQ Americans who have faced the real and daily threat of being legally fired or kicked out of their homes for no reason but whom they love. At a time when our federal government is run by destructive forces bent on increasing discrimination against people of all stripes, this landmark decision could not be more welcome.
The United States took a giant and unexpected step toward equal opportunity today, and regardless of our sexual orientation, that is a feat every American should celebrate.