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Appeals court rules homosexuality not protected in job discrimination

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–There is no federal protection for homosexual employees who are harassed because of their sexual preference, a federal court of appeals has ruled.

A panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided by a 2-1 vote that federal civil rights laws do not protect employees against discrimination based on their homosexuality. Such laws protect workers against discrimination on the basis of such categories as race, gender and religion.

In recent years, efforts have been made in Congress to pass legislation adding “sexual orientation,” which includes homosexuality, as a category covered in civil rights laws. That proposal, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, has yet to gain congressional approval.

The San Francisco case involved accusations against coworkers by Medina Rene, a homosexual who worked as a butler at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Rene’s supervisor and fellow employees, all males, harassed him because of his homosexuality during a two-year period, and his complaints to superiors went unheeded, he said, the newspaper reported. After he left the job, Rene sued the hotel in 1997 for damages under a federal antidiscrimination section based on sex, according to the newspaper.

The appeals court panel upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of Rene’s suit.

“The degrading and humiliating treatment Rene contends that he received from his fellow workers is appalling,” Chief Judge Procter Hug wrote in the majority opinion, according to the Chronicle. “However, this type of discrimination, based on sexual orientation, does not fall” within the ban on sex discrimination.

While there is no federal ban on employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” at least 11 states, including Nevada, have such laws. Rene, however, brought his suit in federal court.

Rene is expected to ask the full appeals court to rehear the case, according to the newspaper.

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