Members of Congress File Brief Urging Court to Recognize Employment Protections for LGBT Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of leading Members of Congress has filed an amicus brief in the case of Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, urging the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize existing non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Mark Takano (D-CA) signed the brief supporting the plaintiff’s request for a rehearing en banc. Merkley, Baldwin, Booker and Cicilline are all lead sponsors of the Equality Act, legislation that would codify and expand non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans and others at the federal level.

“While Congress attempts to codify, update and expand civil rights protections for all LGBT Americans, courts continue to play a vital role by applying the law in individual cases,” they wrote in the brief. “Indeed, the landmark Supreme Court cases of Windsor and Obergefell demonstrated the important role of the judiciary as a coequal branch with a duty to protect civil rights. The judiciary has an equal interest in the rule of law and in upholding an employee’s statutory right to a workplace free of proscribed discrimination. 

Kimberly Hively, the plaintiff in the case, was a former instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana who was denied full-time work and promotions at the college because she was a lesbian. Hively sued for employment discrimination, but the Seventh Circuit recently ruled that the Civil Rights Act did not protect Hively from anti-LGBT discrimination at her job because sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly mentioned in the Civil Rights Act as protected attributes.

The Members noted that anti-LGBT discrimination is itself a form of sex discrimination, which is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, since discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is inherently linked to sex stereotyping.

A copy of the full brief is available here.