In April 2017, for the first time ever, a full panel of circuit court judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago ruled that discrimination against employees for sexual orientation was against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating that discrimination based on orientation falls under the discrimination based on sex. The opinion reversed a lower court decision to throw out the case of an Indiana professor fired for being a lesbian, and set federal level legal precedent that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation.
That decision has resulted in a strange situation in the case of Donald Zarda, who in 2010 sued the Long Island-based sky diving school from which he was fired for being gay. Zarda’s case has become a source of debate before a panel of 13 judges in Manhattan’s appellate court, where the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sided with the plaintiff that yes, Zarda has been discriminated against and that Title VII includes sexual orientation as a protected class beneath the banner of sex discrimination. On the other side of the argument is the Department of Justice, also a federal agency, who are saying no, sex discrimination does not include sexual orientation in its protections as stated in Title VII.
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