On Tuesday evening, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination, the first decision to conclude that LGBTQ people are protected under the existing civil rights law.
The 8-3 decision specifically held that the sex discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act includes a bar on discriminating against gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. In other words, Title VII prohibits sex discrimination, which, based on the court's interpretation, includes sexual orientation.
"We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination," Judge Diane Wood wrote, according to CNN. "Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant — woman or man — dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex."
"That means that it falls within Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination, if it affects employment in one of the specified ways," she added.
"Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love," Sarah Warbelow, legal director of LGBTQ rights organization Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
It should be noted that this ruling doesn't yet apply nationwide — for now, it only applies to the Seventh Circuit, which is made up of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Last month, the 11th Circuit ruled that Title VII does not bar claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The conflicting rulings, however, could take the issue to the Supreme Court, and possibly jump-start a larger battle for LGBTQ rights on a nationwide-level.