NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York federal appeals court ruled Monday that people cannot be fired for being gay.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the case involves Long Island skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who said he was fired for his sexual orientation.

The federal government was not a party to the case, but the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions unexpectedly stepped in last year and argued that the Civil Rights Act does not protect gay workers. But the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal law prohibits workers being fired for their sexual orientation.

“Obviously New York state law does as well, but there had been a misunderstanding with by federal courts – including this one – until today,” said Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, who argued with the plaintiff, said New York state law.

This was the second federal appeals court to rule that discrimination based on sexual orientation amounts to sex discrimination under Title VII – which bans race and sex discrimination in employment.

“The sex discrimination provision of that means that you can’t discriminate against somebody because they’re gay, because you’re holding against a man – in this case Don Zarda – his attraction to men, when it’s perfectly fine for women to have that attraction to men,” Nevins said. “So it’s really that simple.”

The decision Monday is a loss for the Trump administration’s position.

“They went all in on this and the court was not moved,” Nevins said.

Nevins said the ruling makes it more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the issue.

“I think they can’t stand on the sidelines too much longer, but they also have to be asked,” Nevins said.

It is up to the skydiving business, and it is not clear if they will appeal.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley issued a statement in response to the appeals court ruling: “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We remain committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. The position that the Department advocated in this case has been its longstanding position across Administrations and remains the law of nine different Courts of Appeals.”


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