A Federal Appeals Court in New York ruled on Monday that anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is now considered illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This recent ruling was a major win for the LGBT community, which has routinely come under fire from the Trump administration since he took office.
The case that won this historic victory was filed by Donald Zarada to the New York Second Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2010. Zarada, now deceased, was a skydiving instructor who claimed that he was fired by his employer, Altitude Express, Inc., because he was gay. Discrimination based on gender was prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but in this case, the court ruled that the provision also applies to people targeted because of their sexual orientation.
“Today’s decision is a victory for lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers across the country,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project in a press release. “There have now been two federal appeals courts to recognize what we’ve always known — that discrimination based on sexual orientation is in fact discrimination, and that there is no room for it in the workplace. This decision is also a repudiation of the Trump administration’s Justice Department, which has insisted that LGBT discrimination is acceptable under federal law.”
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This is a big win for marginalized people who have been living in fear — justifiably so — of the Trump administration taking away workplace protections. Earlier this year, the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy that used the same Title VII provision that protected transgender employees against workplace discrimination.
Because this ruling was only passed down in New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals, it is not yet considered the law of the land. As of right now, there are many cases in different parts of the country asking the same questions and these States will have to come up with big wins in order to protect these rights not only for gay people but also people who identify as transgender.
“There will still be a fight in other federal circuits to get courts to realize that this ruling is correct. I do think that the fact that it comes from a highly influential court that is well regarded helps,” explains Mar, “then, of course, yesterday’s decision was specific to sexual orientation discrimination. The same reasoning applies to gender identity. That’s something that a number of courts have recognized when it comes to discrimination against transgender people. The second circuit here in New York is not one of them yet. So that too is an area where we are waiting to see the federal courts of appeals come into uniformity in recognizing that gender identity discrimination is also a subset of sexual discrimination.”