Georgia lesbian taking her discrimination case to Supreme Court

Attorneys for Jameka Evans – a Georgia woman fired by her employer for being a lesbian – are taking their legal fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The move, announced Thursday, comes as the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said it won't rehear the case. In April, Lambda Legal asked the full court to take up Evans' appeal after a three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected the case. Lambda has argued that federal law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, a claim the appeals court rejected in March.

Now, Lambda Legal said it will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

“This extremely troubling decision does not slow the momentum that is building behind our efforts to combat employment discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual workers in the courts,” Greg Nevins, an attorney and Employment Fairness Strategist in Lambda's Atlanta office, said in a press release.

“We will continue to press the legally correct argument, recognized by so many other courts, that the Civil Rights Act protects all workers against sexual orientation discrimination, whether they are gender-conforming in particular ways or not," Nevins added.

Evans was fired from her job as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah in 2013 and sued in 2015. Attorneys for Evans argued that the hospital violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 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 2016, 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.

In April, the full Seventh Circuit ruled that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law. That decision came in Lambda's case representing Kimberly Hively, an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College who was fired for being a lesbian.

Last month, the Second Circuit agreed to rehear Zarda v. Altitude Express, which is the case of a New York skydiving instructor who was fired from his job because he was gay.