A U.S. District Court has ruled that the federal ban on sex discrimination in education includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Haley Videckis and Layana White, two former members of Pepperdine University’s women’s basketball team, claim in a lawsuit that coach Ryan Weisenberg and other staffers harassed them because they were lesbians and a couple.
In addition to declaring lesbianism would not tolerated on the team, Coach Weisenberg reportedly harranged the women for details about their sexuality and that of other players.
Calling Weisenberg’s interest “obsessive and very strange,” Videckis and White say the fear that they would lose their sports scholarships lead White to suffer from clinical depression and attempt suicide.
After the attempt, Weisenberg would not allow White to play until she provided him with a note from her gynecologist.
In a December 15 ruling, Judge Dean Pregerson determined the allegations were covered by Title VII and IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bar bias based on gender at academic institutions that receive federal funding.
“The line between discrimination based on gender stereotyping and discrimination based on sexual orientation… is illusory and artificial,” Pregerson wrote in his decision.
Previously, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has claimed that Title VII also bans discrimination based on gender identity, but this marks the first time a judge has ruled it also applies to sexual orientation.
While Pepperdine is a Christian-based university, it claims “to represent many religious backgrounds and students of all races and faiths.”
The decision doesn’t mean a victory for Videckis and White, however, but it does mean their lawsuit can proceed.