Will sexual orientation be a protected class under Title VII?

There is a legal conundrum making its way through federal appellate courts throughout the country surrounding the extent of the protections guaranteed under Title VII: Can a sexual orientation discrimination clam proceed under Title VII?

At first glance, the answer would likely be “no,” given how there are specific protected classes defined under Title VII, and sexual orientation is not one of them. However, the fundamental right to marry has been extended to same sex couples. So it would be legally inconsistent to protect a same sex couple’s right to marry but allow them to be discriminated against in the workplace. 

Indeed, courts (in a general sense) are very reluctant to create exceptions in laws where they currently do not exist, or to expand definitions into areas that were not previously contemplated. Because of this, a federal appeals court (or a state appellate court, for that matter) is unlikely to issue a ruling allowing the expansion of Title VII to sexual orientation.

However, if there is one constant to our society and our legal system, there is always room for change. After all, that was arguably the impetus behind that 1964 Civil Rights Act to begin with. And it is unlikely that a system that condones harassment of homosexuals will continue to withstand legal scrutiny. Nevertheless, absent a change in legislation or a Supreme Court ruling, the chances of homosexuals being granted protected class status under Title VII seems unlikely.

If you are being harassed or believe you are being denied advancement because of your sexual orientation, there are still other legal remedies to be pursued. An experienced employment law attorney can advise you. 

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