In a ruling that is being called a 'game changer,' a federal judge in Houston has ruled that federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex also includes protection based on sexual orientation and identity, the first time ever that protections for gay and transgender Texans have been enshrined in law, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
In a ruling in the case of a woman who claimed that a Houston oil company refused to hire her because she is transgender, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal, Chief Judge of the Southern District of Texas, ruled that sexual orientation and discrimination are protected under Civil Rights era laws that prohibit sexual discrimination in the work place.
"This is a surprising decision," Dallas civil law expert Roggie Dunn told News Radio 1200 WOAI. "Now, in addition to you can't discriminate on the bases of sex, race, disability, age, or national origin, you have to add 'transgender' as one of the basis on which you cannot discriminate.
Currently, there is no law on the books in Texas that stops an employer from firing or not hiring a person specifically because that employee is gay or transgender.
While protections for LGBT workers have been approved by courts in other jurisdictions, this is the first time a federal judge in Texas has clarified the legal non discrimination rights of gay and transgender people in Texas.
Dunn says the ruling will cover the three states in the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
"There was no case law previously indicating it was illegal in those three states to discriminate on the basis of transgender status, and now this ruling changes that for these three states."
It is unclear whether an appeal will be filed.Judge Rosenthal, however, did not rule that the argument of the woman who sued Phillips 66 was valid. He did rule that if she can find more information to back up her argument, she will be allowed to sue for discrimination under the law.