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In legal first, federal judge agrees with EEOC that Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a landmark victory last week when - in a legal first - a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh agreed with the agency and said existing civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people against sexual orientation discrimination. Photo: U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a landmark victory last week when – in a legal first – a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh agreed with the agency and said existing civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people against sexual orientation discrimination. Photo: U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania.

PITTSBURGH – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a landmark victory last week when – in a legal first – a federal judge in Pittsburgh agreed with the agency and said existing civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people against sexual orientation discrimination.

The EEOC decided in 2015 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT people from discrimination.

Scott Medical Health Center, the private company being sued by the EEOC, had asked U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Bissoon to dismiss the case, in part, because it argued that sexual orientation discrimination isn’t illegal.

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COURT RULING

Bissoon disagreed on Friday when she issued her ruling.

“There is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality,” Bissoon wrote, according to Buzzfeed.

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She also cited to a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which found that sex stereotyping is a type of banned sex discrimination under Title VII.

“Forcing an employee to fit into a gendered expectation — whether that expectation involves physical traits, clothing, mannerisms or sexual attraction — constitutes sex stereotyping and, under Price Waterhouse, violates Title VII,” Bissoon wrote via Buzzfeed.

MOVING FORWARD

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The ruling allows the EEOC to proceed with its case against Scott Medical Health Center.

The commission had filed federal lawsuits in March in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, asking courts to acknowledge that employers violate the civil rights of gay and lesbian workers if they treat them unfairly because of their sexual orientation.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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