Anna Sheffer
February 26, 2018 2:07 pm

Since the election of President Donald Trump, it has seemed like the LGBTQ community has had its rights challenged at every turn. Trump has attempted to ban transgender people from joining the military, and Vice President Mike Pence is notorious for his homophobic policies. But despite the federal government’s opposition to LGBTQ rights, a historic court ruling has determined that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be applied to LGBTQ people.

Today, February 26th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan ruled 10-3 that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination in the workplace. The court reasoned that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects individuals from sex-based discrimination, also applied to sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision overturned a brief filed by the Trump administration in 2017 that said the Civil Rights Act was not intended to protect gay workers.

The decision was made in response to the case of Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who was fired after he told a customer he was gay and her boyfriend complained. Lawyers from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued against Zarda’s dismissal, while attorneys from the Department of Justice said that the Civil Rights Act didn’t cover people like Zarda.

Unfortunately, the ruling only applies to states included in the Second Circuit: New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Sadly, most other states don’t forbid discrimination against LGBTQ workers. The Second Circuit Court is the second court to make this ruling, after the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago reached the same conclusion in April 2017. But because the ruling was delivered by all members of the appeals court, the decision can only be appealed by the Supreme Court itself. The Supreme Court could also decide to apply today’s decision to the rest of the country, however, granting nationwide protection under the Civil Rights Act to LGBTQ people.

The fact that people of all sexual orientations aren’t protected in the workplace is appalling, especially considering that most Americans support LGBTQ rights. But regardless, this ruling is a huge step in the right direction. We applaud the Second Circuit Court’s decision and hope that soon LGBTQ people will be protected nationwide.

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