Despite gains, LGBT protections remain a patchwork in US

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A Chicago federal appeals court has declared that LGBTQ employees are protected from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation under the Civil Rights Act. In a ruling that is being called a "game changer" by LGBT rights groups, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago decided 8 to 3 that the 1964 act covered the case of Kim Hively, a teacher in IN who says she was discriminated against for being a lesbian, the AP reports.

"The problem with the old decisions was a focus on the words that were not in the statute - "We don't see sexual orientation in the statute, so you lose" - instead of what is in it: "sex discrimination", Mr. Nevins said in an interview". "And in some respect, these laws are even more important, because they also apply to private parties - such as employers".

"Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination", the court said in an 8-3 opinion arguing that "sexual orientation" was sufficiently subsumed within existing law. "In common, ordinary usage in 1964 - and now, for that matter - the word 'sex" means biologically male or female; it does not also refer to sexual orientation".

The case was brought forward by plaintiff Kimberly Hively, who filed a lawsuit against Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana in 2014 in which she claimed that the school declined to offer her a full-time position after her colleagues witnessed her kissing her girlfriend goodbye in her auto one morning.

"Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant-woman or man-dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex", wrote the majority.

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The vote is notable because the 7th Circuit is considered a relatively conservative appeals court.

Hively sounded relieved by the new ruling in a statement issued by Lamba Legal: "I have been saying all this time that what happened to me wasn't right and was illegal", she said. Though some district courts have, no other federal appeals court has made a similar ruling, according to Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal, which represented the employee in this case. Eight out of the 11 judges were appointed by Republican presidents.

Judge Diane Sykes, who is up for consideration for the Supreme Court, wrote the dissent for the minority. Hively's case, Nevins said, will return to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of in, which previously had sided with Ivy Tech and dismissed Hively's case with prejudice.

The ruling comes as President Donald Trump's administration has begun setting its own policies on LGBT rights. In February, it revoked guidance on transgender students' use of public school bathrooms, deferring to states. "That means that it falls within Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination".

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