In the 3-2 decision, commissioners ruled the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protect employees from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
The independent federal commission is one of the nation’s enforcers and interpreters of federal nondiscrimination laws.
“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,” said Greg Nevins, Counsel and Employment Fairness Strategist for Lambda Legal in a statement.
The decision should serve as precedent for future court decisions, he said.
“Given the clarity and logic of this opinion, most courts are likely to stop simply referring to old, illogical rulings about Title VII coverage. A few may disagree, but most probably will be guided by the Commission’s straightforward approach.”
In 2012, the EEOC ruled discrimination against a transgender individual is also protected under Title VII in the case Macy v. Department of Justice.
“Freedom to Work applauds this historic decision by the EEOC, and we encourage gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals who face harassment or discrimination on the job to consult an attorney and file Title VII claims with the EEOC and eventually the federal courts,” Tico Almeida, the group’s president said in a statement.
He urged LGBT activists to take further claims of nondiscrimination to the federal courts “to win workplace protections in all fifty states.”
Currently 31 states, including Texas, lack employment and housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.
Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director agreed with Almeida.
“This is another historic victory for LGBTQ people and their families. We need to further attack the scourge of discrimination in a comprehensive manner — and while LGBTQ people may file employment discrimination cases with the EEOC, we still need more. We must push for legislation that provides clear and strong protections for all LGBTQ people in every area of life — from housing to health care,” she said in a statement.