EEOC rules LGBT Americans protected from employment discrimination

"The fight for basic civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people just took a big step forward."
Staff Report

Washington, DC - Late Thursday afternoon the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans are protected from employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This follows a 2012 ruling - confirmed by the Justice Department earlier this year - that found protections for the transgender community. 

Only the Supreme Court can make a definitive interpretation of the Civil Rights Act; however, federal courts give a high level of deference to rulings by the EEOC. Litigation is expected quickly to confirm the ruling.

"This ruling is a huge victory for LGBT Oklahomans," said Freedom Oklahoma executive director, Troy Stevenson. "The freedom to marry came to the Sooner State last year, and yet many Oklahomans fear adding their spouse to their health benefits because it was legal for their employer to fire them for being gay. That changed today. We know this fight is not over, but the law is on our side, and we will keep advocating until every Oklahoman has the freedom to be who they are or with the one they love - without fear of bias or discrimination." 

“The fight for basic civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people just took a big step forward,” said American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project Director James Esseks. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all across the country now have a place to turn if an employer fires them because of their sexual orientation. This is a significant development because protections for gay and transgender people are almost nonexistent in federal law, and 28 states also lack state-level protections.” 

Despite the EEOC ruling, neither Congress nor state legislatures have passed explicit civil rights protections for LGBT employees. The ACLU argues that these protections should not be left to the courts because they may not all interpret this ruling with an even hand, and rulings like this one cannot provide comprehensive protections against sexual orientation discrimination in contexts such as public accommodations and federal funding, where there are no bans on sex discrimination to piggy back on.

Freedom Oklahoma is Oklahoma's statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and a proud member of the Equality Federation. Freedom Oklahoma is the unified organization resulting from the merger of The Equality Network, a 501 (c) (4) organization that lobbies for pro-equality legislation and public policies; and the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) organization that engaged in public education in support of the LGBT community.

Published by The Gayly at 7am, 7/17/2015