Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation outlawed?

Although the legalization of same-sex marriage is a huge advance, it has been pointed out that one is still allowed to discriminate against members of the LGBT community when it comes to employment, housing, and others areas of life where it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or national origin. This was seen as the next frontier in achieving equal rights.

But in a major ruling last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that the existing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation because it necessarily involves discrimination based on sex.

The independent commission addressed the question of whether the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars anti-LGB discrimination in a complaint brought by a Florida-based air traffic control specialist against Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx.

The ruling — approved by a 3-2 vote of the five-person commission — applies to federal employees’ claims directly, but it also applies to the entire EEOC, which includes its offices across the nation that take and investigate claims of discrimination in private employment.

While only the Supreme Court could issue a definitive ruling on the interpretation, EEOC decisions are given significant deference by federal courts.

The commission found that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination for several reasons. Among the reasons, the commission stated, is because sexual orientation discrimination “necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex” and “because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex.”

The decision is bound to be controversial and will be challenged in court by those businesses that have some kind of religious affiliation and want to have nothing to do with gay people and definitely do not want to have them as employees.


  1. says

    When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created Title VII, it also created the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to enforce it. Technically, the ruling is a policy decision on how the law will be implemented, and can be changed at any time (one of the reasons why elections matter.) The courts have generally given great deference to the EEOC’s interpretation of the rules, though, so it is unlikely that this will be overturned unless the EEOC changes its policy. Much better, though, would be to amend Title VII to include orientation and identity: once it is actual statute, no change in EEOC policy can alter it.

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