US equality commission: Existing discrimination laws do protect LGBT people

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that existing legislation outlaws discrimination based on sexuality – granting vital protections to workers across the US.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage, you can still be fired for being gay in a huge number of states.

Last year Republicans in Congress killed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would have protected LGBT workers.

Though Barack Obama signed an executive order outlawing anti-LGBT discrimination, this only extended to federal contractors.

However, a ruling this week helps cement anti-discrimination protections.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that under existing civil rights laws, LGB workers are already protected from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

In a 3-2 vote, the commission found that a passage banning sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would also block anti-LGB discrimination.

The landmark ruling affirmed: “Allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.”

The ruling has been celebrated by LGBT rights groups, who have repeatedly warned about the lack of anti-discrimination legislation.

Pro-LGBT group Lambda Legal said: “This landmark opinion from the EEOC confirms what we have long argued in our cases: discriminating against gay, lesbian and bisexual employees violates federal law.

“This ruling is likely to have enormous positive effects because EEOC interpretations of Title VII are highly persuasive to the courts—they tend to be predictive. Given the clarity and logic of this opinion, most courts are likely to stop simply referring to old, illogical rulings about Title VII coverage.”

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said: “Discrimination has no place in America, plain and simple.

“This historic ruling by the EEOC makes clear they agree workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, much like gender identity, is illegal.

” While an important step, it also highlights the need for a comprehensive federal law permanently and clearly banning LGBT discrimination beyond employment to all areas of American life.

“Such a law would send a clear and permanent signal that discrimination against LGBT people will not be tolerated under any circumstances in this country, and we remain fully committed to making that happen.”

The same commission found in 2012 that discrimination based on gender identity is also banned under the law.