As the bumper-sticker says, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” So when a federal judge in Texas ruled last week that LGBT workers are protected from employment discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation, it was a big deal.
Last week, Judge Lee Rosenthal, the chief judge in the Houston-based Southern District Court of Texas, handed down a decision that said LGBT workers are protected from employment discrimination based on their gender identity and sexual orientation under Title VII, a civil-rights-era federal employment law that protects workers from discrimination based on sex.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the decision was handed down during a case in which engineer Nicole Wittmer claimed she was not hired by energy company Phillips 66 because she was transgender.
Reported the Morning News, “The decision marked the first time a federal judge in Texas has said that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against under Title VII.”
First for 5th Circuit Courts
While federal judges in several other states have already decided that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers are also covered under Title VII, there has never been such a decision by a federal court in Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi.
“This ruling, along with dozens of others, shows that discrimination against transgender workers is illegal under federal law,” said Harper Jean Tobin, policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Dale Carpenter, a constitutional law and LGBT rights expert at Southern Methodist University, said, “if it becomes the rule in Texas, this would be the single biggest victory against employment discrimination that has yet to be enjoyed by the LGBT rights movement.”
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