ACLU backs Georgia woman fired for being gay

The ACLU of Georgia argued that federal law protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination, weighing in on the case of a Georgia lesbian fired for being gay.

The organization, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday supporting Jameka Evans, who has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In March, a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected her claim and ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not violate existing federal laws against gender bias.

Lambda Legal, the non-profit representing Evans, then asked the full court to rehear the case. The ACLU of Georgia, in a brief signed by 15 other organizations, argued that the court should rehear Evans' case. 

“The ACLU has long fought to end workplace discrimination in all of its forms, because no one should be fired from a job or harassed at work just for being themselves,” Andrea Young (photo), executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a prepared statement.

“Bias against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people turns on the sex-based expectation that women should be attracted only to men – and not women – and vice versa. Employers who take sexual orientation into account necessarily take sex into account – and sex discrimination in the workplace is clearly prohibited under the Civil Rights Act," Young added.

Evans was fired from her job as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah in 2013 and sued in 2015, arguing that the hospital violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against her on the basis of her sexual orientation and her nonconformity with gender norms and appearances. In September 2015, a federal judge ruled that sexual orientation was not a protected class under Title VII and dismissed the lawsuit without holding a hearing. 

In December, Lambda Legal argued that the case should proceed during a hearing before a three-judge panel of the appeals court. On March 10, the court ruled 2 to 1 against Evans. Lambda Legal called the appeals court ruling "a decision from the Stone Age."

Filing the brief is the latest action by the ACLU of Georgia to support LGBT issues. The organization criticized an anti-LGBT amendment to an adoption bill as a "discriminator provision" and "a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination," and applauded the Macon-Bibb County Commission for "taking a stand against discrimination." 

In February, Young joined LGBT clergy to denounce anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation.