The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New York, Vermont and Connecticut, ruled today (Feb. 26) that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex and is illegal under Title VII.

Donald Zarda brought this suit against his former employer alleging he was fired after revealing his sexual orientation to a client. On the initial appeal, Zarda lost the case, but the he appealed the case to be heard by the court en banc, or by a nine-judge panel instead of the original three.

Writing for the court, the chief judge wrote, “Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, brought a sex discrimination claim … alleging that he was fired from his job at Altitude Express, Inc., because he failed to conform to male sex stereotypes by referring to his sexual orientation.”

The judge acknowledged that in the past the court ruled differently on the subject.

“But legal doctrine evolves and in 2015 the EEOC held, for the first time, that ‘sexual orientation is inherently a ‘sex‐based consideration.’”

The ruling applies only to the Second Circuit but other courts may use the ruling as precedent. Should varying rulings among courts be written, the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case to decide whether or not sexual orientation is sex discrimination covered under Title VII.

— David Taffet