A ruling this week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involving an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeks to enshrine protected status for sexual orientation in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Though the Civil Rights Act does not specifically mention sexual orientation, the EEOC ruling declares: “Sexual orientation is inherently a sex-based consideration. It’s time for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] advocates to retire the incorrect talking point that gay Americans can get married at Noon and fired at 2:00 pm without legal recourse.”

Further explaining its viewpoint, the EEOC ruling states:

When an employee raises a claim of sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrmination under Title VII, the question is not whether sexual orientation is explicitly listed in Title VII as a prohibited basis for employment actions. It is not. Rather, the question for purposes of Title VII coverage of a sexual orientation claim is the same as any other Title VII case involving allegations of sex discrimination—whether the agency [FAA] has ‘relied on sex-based considerations’ or ‘take[n] gender into account’ when taking the challenged employment action.

Until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, however, the EEOC interpretation will not necessarily have the force of law, legal experts advise, though it will certainly guide agency decisions.

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