Illinois LGBT-Rights Ruling Could Impact Georgia Case

Apr 5, 2017

A federal appeals court ruling this week in Illinois could affect a LGBT-rights case here in Georgia.


The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled for the first time Tuesday that federal civil rights laws protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.

The case stems from a lawsuit by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively alleging that the Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend didn't hire her for a full-time position because she is a lesbian.


The decision comes just three weeks after a three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgia reached the opposite ruling in the case of Jameka Evans. 


She claims Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah fired her for being a lesbian.


“You’re going to see this [ruling] replicate itself circuit by circuit around the country,” said Lambda Legal’s Greg Nevins, who represents both Evans and Hively. “This is the beginning of a new way of looking at this. I think the momentum won’t be able to be stopped.”


Nevins has requested that Georgia’s full circuit court hear the Evans case. In light of the ruling in Illinois, he’s confident the re-hearing will be granted.


Both cases center on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex.


In his opinion, 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner wrote that evolving norms call for a change in interpretation of the law.


"I don't see why firing a lesbian because she is in the subset of women who are lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she's a woman," wrote the judge.


The decision comes as President Donald Trump's administration has begun setting its own policies on LGBT rights. 


Late in January, the White House declared Trump would enforce an Obama administration order barring companies that do federal work from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. 


But in February, it revoked guidance on transgender students' use of public school bathrooms, deferring to states.