Advocates Urge SCOTUS to Consider Review of Landmark Gay Discrimination Case

By Adam Polaski • September 7, 2017 • 3:09 pm

Today Lambda Legal filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court in their case Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, a potentially landmark case dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The case concerns a Georgia security guard – Jameka Evans – who was harassed, assaulted, denied equal pay and equal work, and eventually forced to leave her job because of her sexual orientation.

The Evans case is particularly significant in its potential scope and impact on the landscape for LGBTQ rights. It considers whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The district court disagreed that Title VII covers sexual orientation discrimination, dismissed that claim, and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit — which holds jurisdiction over Georgia, Florida, and Alabama — affirmed in a split decision.

Katie Belanger, acting CEO and president of operations at Freedom for All Americans, issued the following statement in response to the news:

“We applaud Lambda Legal for advancing this potentially historic case. Our movement is committed to securing full legal equality for every single LGBTQ person, and we’ll make advancements on every avenue possible in pursuit of that goal. LGBTQ people are deserving of the same dignity, respect, and legal protections as every other American, no matter what state they call home. Freedom for All Americans is committed to winning nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and we’re proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners as we continue fighting for our rights both in state legislatures and in the courts.”

While the 11th Circuit failed to rule in Jameka’s favor, other courts are increasingly coming to the conclusion that federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In April 2017, the entire Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Lambda Legal’s client, Kimberly Hively, who was fired from her job as a teacher because she is a lesbian; and reversed that court’s prior precedent that Title VII did not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. A case pending in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Zarda v. Altitude Express, considers a similar question and will face oral argument in New York City at the end of September.

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