Omid Nosrati

Is sexual orientation discrimination equal to sex discrimination?

The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage represented a milestone for the LGBT community. Their long, hard-fought battle to be placed on legal footing with opposite-sex marriage culminated in a key victory.

However, another fight continues. The hallmark achievement two years ago now serves as a prelude to ending discrimination in another setting.

The workplace.

Two key cases are moving forward. Both revolve around expanding the federal law banning employment discrimination over sex. Plaintiff legal counsel in these respective legal matters want jurists to apply existing civil rights laws allowing them to sue over discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In what seemed to be a significant setback, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the claim of Jameka Evans, a former hospital security guard. She alleges that her employer discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation. Evans’ attorney is now requesting the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

The other case before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals involves the estate of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who passed away before trial. The estate claims that after Zarda disclosed that he was gay to a student prior to a tandem jump, her boyfriend complained about his behavior. Altitude Express, Zarda’s employer, immediately fired him, claiming that the ex-employee was terminated for failing to provide an enjoyable experience to customers.

While the odds seem to be against both cases, a recent decision may provide a glimmer of hope. In April, Diane Wood, a judge with the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, allowed Kimberly Hively’s discrimination case against Ivy Tech Community College to move forward. Hively accused the educational institution of denying her employment based on her sexual orientation.

History may consider that groundbreaking decision as a catalyst, if not precedent, in furthering the cause of protecting LGBT workplace rights.

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