WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a landmark ruling on July 15 saying that discriminating against employees for being gay, lesbian or bisexual constitutes gender discrimination.

The agency is charged with enforcement of federal employment non-discrimination protections. It had previously ruled that bans on gender bias included claims of unequal treatment by transgender employees.

The 17-page decision — which named U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, a former Charlotte mayor, in his role as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration — said discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“When an employee raises a claim of sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination under Title VII, the question is not whether sexual orientation is explicitly listed in Title VII as a prohibited basis for employment actions,” the decision states. “It is not. Rather, the question for purposes of Title VII coverage of a sexual orientation claim is the same as any other Title VII case involving allegation of sex discrimination — whether the agency has ‘relied on sex-based considerations’ or ‘take[n] gender into account’ when taking the challenged employment action.”

The ruling was passed 3-2, with openly lesbian member of the commission, Chai Feldblum, joining Chair Jenny Yang and Commissioner Charlotte Burrows. Commissioners Victoria Lipnic and Constance Barker voted against the ruling.

National advocates were quick to praise the ruling, but also stressed the importance of a comprehensive federal law on anti-LGBT discrimination.

“Discrimination has no place in America, plain and simple,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “This historic ruling by the EEOC makes clear they agree workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, much like gender identity, is illegal. While an important step, it also highlights the need for a comprehensive federal law permanently and clearly banning LGBT discrimination beyond employment to all areas of American life. Such a law would send a clear and permanent signal that discrimination against LGBT people will not be tolerated under any circumstances in this country, and we remain fully committed to making that happen.”

more: Read more about the ruling and the employment case leading to its decision via the Washington Blade at bit.ly/1SBOfYY.

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Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.