The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled yesterday that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited "sex discrimination" within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision was issued in the case of Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit had found last year that Title VII did not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, but that decision was vacated to allow the full court to rehear the case.

This is the first decision by a U.S. Court of Appeal to find that Title VII encompasses sexual orientation discrimination. Recently, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to so find, as did a panel of the Eleventh Circuit. It is likely that both of these panel decisions will be reheard by the full courts. If the split in the circuits remains, the issue may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

We will follow up later today with a more comprehensive analysis of the Seventh Circuit's Hively decision and what it means for employers