Historic Missouri Ruling Adds LGBT Protections To Sex Discrimination Law

A landmark case “simply recognizes the manifold ways sex discrimination manifests itself,” an appeals court ruled.

A Missouri Court of Appeals ruled this week that discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is prohibited under state laws barring sex discrimination.

“If the employer mistreats a male employee because the employer deems the employee insufficiently masculine, it is immaterial whether the male employee is gay or straight,” wrote Judge Anthony in Tuesday’s decision. “The prohibition against sex discrimination extends to all employees, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Tony Rothert of the ACLU of Missouri hailed the ruling as protecting not only LGBT Missourians but straight men and women who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.

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The ruling stemmed from a 2014 case in which Harold Lampley, a gay man, claimed he was fired from the Missouri Department of Social Services because he didn’t meet his bosses’ expectation of how a man should behave. (A female coworker also sued, claiming she was retaliated against because she associated with Lampley.)

Lampley can now proceed with his case.

The Missouri Commission on Human Rights initially claimed it didn’t have jurisdiction because the discrimination was based on Lampley’s sexual orientation, rather than his sex. But the appeals court disagreed, maintaining the case “simply recognizes the manifold ways sex discrimination manifests itself.”

In July, the Missouri Legislature passed legislation requiring wrongful-termination suits prove bias was the primary reason they were fired, not just a contributing factor.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery