Hively

  • April 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Katie Eyer, Associate Professor, Rutgers Law School             

    Since the 1970s, gay and lesbian plaintiffs have raised the argument that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is, inherently and necessarily, sex discrimination under Title VII. Such arguments have long had strong doctrinal support. As early as 1978, the Supreme Court made clear that "treatment of a person in a manner which, but for that person's sex, would be different" is discriminatory and prohibited under Title VII. This standard is satisfied in each and every case of sexual orientation discrimination—since by definition in a sexual orientation discrimination case sex-based disparate treatment has occurred (a woman who is fired for marrying a woman would not have been fired for the same conduct had she been a man). Other arguments founded in well-established anti-discrimination doctrine, such as associational discrimination and gender stereotyping, have also been put forward.

    And yet even after the Supreme Court’s decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins—recognizing the doctrine of gender stereotyping, and holding categorically that an employer “may not take gender into account”—most courts have continued to reject the notion that sexual orientation discrimination could be considered a form of sex discrimination. Thus, while most courts did allow gay plaintiffs to bring narrower sex discrimination claims—focused on discrimination targeting deviations from gender-stereotypical appearance or mannerisms—every Court of Appeals until this week had held that sexual orientation itself was not categorically protected under Title VII.

    On Tuesday, breaking from this history, the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, took a fresh look at the doctrine and concluded that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

    Thus, the Court observed inter alia:

    “Hively alleges that if she had been a man married to a woman (or living with a woman, or dating a woman) and everything else had stayed the same, Ivy Tech would not have refused to promote her and would not have fired her… This describes paradigmatic sex discrimination.

  • April 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Steve Sanders, Associate Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law, and affiliated faculty in political science, Indiana University Bloomington

    Going back at least to 1977, majorities of Americans have agreed that gays and lesbians “should … have equal rights in terms of job opportunities.”  The number hit 89 percent in 2004. Gallup apparently stopped asking the question in 2008, perhaps because the social consensus was so overwhelming that there was nothing useful to be learned from further polling.

    If American government operated the way civics books tell us it does, Congress, acting on such an overwhelming public preference, would long ago have enacted federal legislation outlawing employment discrimination against gays and lesbians. 

    But Congress does not work this way. Constituent preferences do not always get translated into policy. For example, Congress has shown a longstanding and “persistent bias against constituent will on LGB rights,” and “Republicans consistently oppose” such rights “regardless of constituent preferences.” Legislators also know most people don’t pay much attention (except in the most extraordinary situations, such as Ryan/Trumpcare) to what Congress does or does not do. And as Ilya Somin has been documenting for years, too many Americans are ignorant about politics and public affairs. 

    Moreover, Congress is broken. Partisan gerrymandering subverts principles of fair representation. And the current Republican majority is an “insurgent outlier” that is incapable of governing