11th Circuit Court ignores own ruling in refusing lesbian’s appeal

Jameka Evans filed a suit against her former employer for discriminating against her because she is a lesbian. Lambda Legal photo.

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

Despite decisions by many courts supporting LGBT+ people’s claims that Title VII of civil rights law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation the Eleventh Circuit court denied a lesbian’s claim that she was discriminated against by her employer.

Jameka Evans filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Georgia in 2015 against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, claiming the hospital was violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation and her nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor, according to Lambda Legal.

The District Court judge dismissed her lawsuit, and Evans appealed to the 11th Circuit Court.

According to the Associated Press, “In March, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1964 civil-rights law doesn't protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The ruling was 2-1, with the majority saying the court was bound by precedent set in 1979. The dissenting judge, however, said a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting discrimination because someone doesn't conform to gender stereotypes would apply.”

Today, the Circuit Court refused that request. Lambda Legal has vowed to appeal the ruling to the U. S. Supreme Court, according to a summary of the case on their website.

Lambda wrote on their website after the court’s March ruling, “’If it seems the Court’s decision is from the Stone Age, that’s because, from an LGBT perspective, it is. In reaffirming without questioning a 1979 decision, the court is ignoring the sea changes in the law since then. It’s a cruel, paradoxical decision, since this very court ruled just six years ago that employers could not discriminate against LGBT people for not conforming to gender stereotypes,’ said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal.

“’In 2011, in Glenn v. Brumby, this Court said it was unfair and illegal to discriminate against an employee because who they are does not meet their employer’s gender stereotypes. That is exactly what happened to Jameka Evans; and she along with other lesbian, gay, and bisexual people will remain vulnerable at work if courts rely on old case law that interprets federal employment law too narrowly.’”

It is ironic that the same court that issued a ruling against discrimination toward a transgender person for not meeting their employer’s gender stereotypes would then, six years and many court rulings by other courts later, would deny that right to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Lambda says, “For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx.”

It is, of course, impossible to know how the Supreme Court will rule on Evan’s case, but with several courts and the EEOC adopting the position that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the matter is certainly ripe for a Supreme Court hearing.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – July 6, 2017 @ 2:30 p.m.