The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday vacated a July ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that denied a lesbian former adjunct to sue Ivy Tech Community College for alleged discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The ruling, which alarmed many advocates for gay and lesbian people, said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion and other factors, cannot be used to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation because Congress did not intend to ban such bias.
The former adjunct in the case, Kimberly Hively, sued the college in 2013 after having worked as an adjunct instructor in mathematics for 14 years, during which she not only received good reviews from her supervisors but won an award from the college for outstanding teaching. She sued after repeatedly applying for and being rejected for permanent positions at the college and being rejected for continued employment as an adjunct. In an interview, she said that she traced the rejections to her sexual orientation after hearing about administrators who had commented to others about her being a lesbian in a relationship with another woman. The college has denied that it engaged in discrimination.
Tuesday's order sets aside the earlier ruling and says the full court of appeals will reconsider the case.
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