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Litigation Tracker: Seventh Circuit

Covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin

A landmark en banc ruling from the 7th Circuit on April 4, 2017 in Lambda Legal’s case Hively v. Ivy Tech established positive precedent that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the first federal appellate court to do so. 

  • With its ruling in Hively, the 7th Circuit overturned discriminatory precedent set in Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, a decision issued August 29, 1984 in which the 7th Circuit wrote that Title  VII’s  prohibition  against  sex  discrimination   “implies   that   it   is   unlawful   to   discriminate  against women because they are women and against men because they are men.” This precedent had been cited time and time again by the 7th Circuit, including in the 2003 case Hamm v. Weyauwega Milk Products, Inc., the 2000 case Spearman v. Ford Motor Co., and the 2000 case Hamner v. St. Vincent Hospital & Health Care Center, Inc..
  • A separate ruling from the 7th Circuit in the Transgender Law Center’s case Whitaker v. Kenosha County School Board on May 30, 2017 found for the first time ever that discrimination against transgender students violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination, and the United States Constitution. 

The 7th Circuit has also cast doubt on the viability of existing precedent in the circuit finding that discrimination based on gender identity does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • In the Hively ruling, the en banc majority wrote, “The common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation  without  discriminating  on  the basis of sex persuade[s] us that  the  time  has  come  to  overrule  our  previous  cases  that have endeavored to find and observe that line.” One of the previous cases on this issue in the 7th Circuit is Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, the 1984 decision in which a panel wrote that Title VII does not protect transgender people from discrimination.

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Seventh Circuit

J.A.W. v. Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: January 8, 2020 • Pre-Trial Conference Set
Status: Pending before District Court
Legal Team: ACLU of Indiana
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students

The school district is refusing to respect the gender identity of transgender students, including a young transgender male, J.A.W. Since Indiana is in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently ruled that discriminating against transgender students violates Title IX of the Education Amendments, the school must comply with the student's request.

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