It has been ironclad law since the enactment of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that the Act’s prohibition against discrimination “because of . . . sex” does not include sexual orientation. Federal law does not prohibit employers from terminating someone for being gay or lesbian. For now, at least.
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The Trump Administration will leave in place an executive order signed by President Barack Obama, which bans sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by federal contractors. President Obama signed the order in 2014. By doing so, he amended and expanded previous executive orders signed by Presidents Nixon and Clinton, which ban discrimination by federal contractors on the basis race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, status as a parent, and age.
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On March 1, 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued employers for the first time for sexual orientation discrimination. The EEOC filed lawsuits in federal courts in Pittsburgh and Baltimore against manufacturing and health care employers for unlawful sex discrimination on behalf of employees alleging they were harassed and discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
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On November 3, 2015, Houston voters rejected Proposition 1, a broadly-worded human rights ordinance that would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of, among other things, gender identity. Opposition to that ordinance coalesced around the issue of restrooms, with many citizens expressing fear that the law would allow men to use women’s restrooms.
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In its recent decision in David Baldwin v. Dep’t of Transportation, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133080 (July 15, 2015), the EEOC ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, despite the fact that Title VII does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its list of protected bases.
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Executive Order 13672 went into effect on July 21, 2014 and amended Executive Order 11246 by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. Executive Order 13672, however, applies only to contracts entered on or after July 21, 2014.
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