Federal Judge Rules That Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation is Illegal Under Federal Law

In decision, federal judge rules: “There is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”

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Last Friday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organisation, praised the decision of a federal judge in Pittsburgh who sided with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In the case of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Scott Medical Health Center, Judge Cathy Bissoon ruled, “There is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”

“This is an important win for LGBTQ equality,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Judge Bissoon’s decision affirms that discrimination against an individual based on their sexual orientation is fundamentally a form of discrimination based on sex — which is prohibited by federal law. We congratulate the EEOC and the plaintiff on this victory.”

In the suit, the EEOC argued that a gay male employee was subjected to harassment because of his sexual orientation. Last year, the EEOC determined in  Baldwin v. Foxx that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination, thus workers are protected under Title VII from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2012, the EEOC determined in Macy v. Holder that gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination.

This new decision continues an important trend in the development of case law. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue. HRC continues to advocate for permanent and explicit legislation addressing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Photo By John P Salvatore [CC0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons