HRC Blog

Federal Judge Allows Gay Man’s Discrimination Claim to Proceed

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director

On Monday, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that Peter TerVeer's discrimination suit against the Library of Congress can move forward.  TerVeer alleges that his boss at the Library discriminated against him because he is gay and, when he complained, higher-ups retaliated against him with negative performance reviews.  

While federal courts have generally concluded in the past that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation itself, they have allowed claims to move forward where a gay, lesbian or bisexual person was subjected to sex stereotyping and other forms of sex discrimination.  In addition, numerous federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have concluded that discrimination based on gender identity is barred by Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination. 

In TerVeer's case, the judge agreed that his allegation that his "sexual orientation is not consistent with the Defendant’s perception of acceptable gender roles" and "status as a homosexual male did not conform to the Defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men" was a cognizable claim under Title VII and could proceed.  While this is only a preliminary decision, it is a positive sign that federal courts may finally begin to recognize that discrimination against someone because of the sex of the person to whom he or she is attracted is indeed sex discrimination and impermissible under federal law.  

We'll be closely watching this case as it moves forward.     

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