The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that anti-gay workplace bias is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, reversing an earlier decision from a three-judge panel. As the Washington Blade reports, in a 8-3 decision the court found “discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes discrimination based on one’s perception of gender stereotypes, which the U.S. Supreme Court has determined is unlawful under Title VII.”
As I blogged last month, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled 2-1 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on a variety of factors including sex, doesn’t protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Unless the full 11th Circuit Court follows the 7th Circuit’s lead and reverses last month’s panel ruling, it Looks like this will be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Kennedy may again be the swing vote.
As I said before, Title VII has already been stretched so far beyond its original intent, to say it can be stretched no further seems arbitrary.
More. An interesting observation from The Volokh Conspiracy site:
The interesting opinion here is not the majority…. It’s Judge Flaum’s. He makes a novel and extremely clever argument (at least to me) to explain why discrimination against homosexuals is sex discrimination using mixed motive theory.
Title VII prohibits me from firing someone for a mix of good and bad reasons (“mixed motives”). So if I fire you because you’re a woman who is bad at your job, but don’t fire men who are equally bad at their jobs, I have violated the law–even though part of the reason for the firing is that you are bad at your job, a lawful (indeed, laudable) reason to fire someone.
Flaum’s innovative observation is to point out that firing someone for homosexuality means that I am firing them based upon TWO facts, not one: the person is 1. a woman who 2. is attracted to women. (Or 1. a man who 2. is attracted to men.) Voila– whether fact number 2 is a prohibited characteristic or not under the law is irrelevant, because firing someone based on fact number 1 is most definitely illegal, and firing someone for a mix of legal and illegal motives is also illegal.
Flaum’s a conservative’s conservative. When he is going out of his way to explain to conservatives the obvious errors of the “sexual-orientation-isn’t-sex” line of argument, it’s time to pack it in.