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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second CircuitU.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

A split U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Monday broke with precedent in finding sexual orientation covered under federal workplace discrimination protections. The case, argued before a rare en banc hearing last September, saw the federal government split over the question of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covered sexual orientation. The decision creates another avenue to bring the issue back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear a similar case last year.

In the majority opinion, written by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, the court acknowledged that the view on the law around the issue had changed. The Seventh Circuit last year issued a decision in favor of sexual orientation protections in the workplace and “the legal framework for evaluating Title VII claims has evolved substantially,” requiring the overturning of prior precedents, the court stated. The Eleventh Circuit last year declined to recognize such a claim.

“In the context of Title VII, the statutory prohibition extends to all discrimination ‘because of…sex’ and sexual orientation discrimination is an actionable subset of sex discrimination,” the court said, quoting the relevant element in the Civil Rights Act.

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Colby Hamilton

B. Colby Hamilton is a litigation reporter for the New York Law Journal and Law.com.

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