Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Covers Sexual Orientation

April 07, 2017

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a landmark decision this week that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 affords protection to those discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation,running counter to other circuit court decisions.  In a rare hearing by the full Seventh Circuit, the court determined that an Indiana community college repeatedly passed over one of its professors for promotion and eventually did not renew her contract because of her sexual orientation, which in turn was discrimination on the basis of sex.  "The Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex, persuades us that the time has come to overrule our previous cases that have endeavored to find and observe that line."  The 8-3 ruling reversed a district court decision that dismissed the professor's case based on Seventh Circuit precedent.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Richard Posner stated, "We should not leave the impression that we are merely the obedient servants of the 88th Congress, carrying out their wishes.  We are not.  We are taking advantage of what the last half century has taught."  The community college has not yet determined whether it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the creation of a split in the Circuit Courts almost ensures this issue will eventually be brought before the high court.