Title VII protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, en banc 2nd Circuit says

An en banc federal appeals court has ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that discrimination against gay workers constitutes a form of sex discrimination banned by Title VII. Bloomberg News, the New York Law Journal, BuzzFeed News and the New York Times have stories.

Title VII bars discrimination in employment based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

“Sexual orientation discrimination—which is motivated by an employer’s opposition to romantic association between particular sexes—is discrimination based on the employee’s own sex,” the appeals court said in an opinion by Judge Robert Katzmann.

The U.S. Justice Department had told the 2nd Circuit that Title VII doesn’t protect workers from sexual-orientation discrimination, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took the opposite position.

The ABA House of Delegates interpreted the law in favor of gay employees in a resolution passed in February. The resolution says employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation should be prohibited under a proper interpretation of Title VII.

The 2nd Circuit case was filed on behalf of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired after a customer complained about him being gay. Zarda later died in a skydiving accident, but his estate’s executors are continuing the litigation. The case was returned to the federal court in Brooklyn, New York. The case is Zarda v. Altitude Express.

Other federal appeals courts are split on the issue. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that gay employees are not protected by the Civil Rights Act, while the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the law does protect gay workers.