In an April 2017 decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana held that Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statue, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation
Title VII, passed in 1964, prohibits discrimination based on “sex,” but does not expressly address sexual orientation. However, in Hively, the Seventh Circuit held, based on legal developments in the five decades since Title VII’s passage – which have generally included broader protections for homosexual persons – that protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation fell within the ambit of Title VII’s prohibitions of discrimination based on “sex.”
This decision reflects a step towards broad federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and precedent that may be relied on going forward. However, it should not be viewed as a sea change as to interpretation of Title VII, except with respect to courts within the Seventh Circuit, which are now bound to interpret Title VII as prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indeed, just a month earlier in March 2017, the Eleventh Circuit reached a contrary result in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, reaffirming that sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII.