The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is positioned to join the 7th Circuit in deciding that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination at work.

In April of this year,  the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago made history when it decided that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.  See Kristin’s post to read more about that landmark decision.

The case in the 2nd Circuit (which includes New York) began in 2010 when Donald Zarda sued his employer for firing him because he was gay. The US District Court for the Eastern District of New York agreed with Zarda’s employer and held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect gay employees. Tragically, Donald passed away in a base jumping accident in Switzerland before he could bring his case to the Court of Appeals. His attorney continued the case on behalf of his estate and Lambda Legal stepped into help.  A panel of three judges on the 2nd circuit affirmed the lower court’s denial.  Undeterred, Donald’s estate requested an en banc hearing with all of the 2nd Circuit judges.  This request was granted.

On June 26 Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief arguing that Title VII does in fact prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.  The brief contains many of the same arguments that were successful in the 7th Circuit.  The main argument is a common sense one: that one can’t take sex, as in gender, out of sexual orientation. Simply put, if a woman cannot be fired for loving a man, then a man should not be fired for loving another man.

Our hope is that the Second Circuit will make the right decision and recognize that federal law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.  It seems crazy that this is even a question today.   But the good news is that there are smart, determined people willing and able to take on that fight. Maybe one day true equality will exist for all people regardless of who they love or more simply put, who they are.