Sadly, there is no federal law against discrimination based on sexual orientation other than prohibiting it in the federal workplace and in the hiring practices of the federal government. New York State’s law regarding such discrimination is The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, or SONDA, of 2003, which stipulates that no one is allowed to discriminate against anyone else based upon the second person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation in the following instances: employment, housing, credit, education, and public accommodation.
The act did not go so far as to prohibit such discrimination people of one sexual orientation or another might face as customers of a business with discriminatory practices regarding whom they serve. In fact, in the famous case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7-2 in favor of the cake shop that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Still, there are narrow situations outside of the workplace where such discrimination is disallowed, such as gaining marriage licenses. The New York State Marriage Equality Act of 2011 stipulated that no one can be denied the issuance of a marriage license based on that person’s sexual orientation. Additionally, same-sex couples are allowed to file joint state tax returns, benefit from joint property laws, receive healthcare and other employment benefits as married couples, and all other tax benefits to which married couples have always had access.
The protections of both SONDA and the Marriage Equality Act extend further than that, however. They both provide protections against covert discrimination as well as overt discrimination. Some examples include:
- Specific rude or derogatory comments from state employees, directed toward LGBTQ+ people seeking services, while providing those mandated services
- General rude or derogatory comments made in the presence of LGBTQ+ persons
- Sudden changes in level of service when the person providing the service finds out someone is LGBTQ+
Also, while there are no federal laws against sexual orientation discrimination, there are federal laws against discrimination based upon sex or gender identity. These two concepts may overlap, depending on the circumstances of the person or persons involved, and the resulting overlap creates complexity, particularly if there are multiple gender identities involved. People with “no case” against a discriminating party may, if it becomes apparent that the discrimination is for a different reason than first assumed, suddenly have sufficient grounds to seed redress.
A lawyer whose focus is sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity discrimination, or both, will be able to advise you based on the characteristics of your case. Many lawyers with such a focus also concentrate on civil trial advocacy so that they can strive to meet as many of their clients’ needs as possible.
Should your case require our advocacy in New York State courts, United States District Courts, United States Circuit Courts of Appeals, and even the United States Supreme Court, our lawyer will be able to represent you in any court where your case appears.
At Leeds Brown Law, PC, we have more than three decades’ experience handling civil cases, and New York Newsday once wrote that our firm was, “… the leading civil-rights law firm on Long Island and probably in the country.” We provide free initial consultations wherein we will listen intently to the particulars of your case. Our office staff will also aim to make you feel as at ease as possible so that you feel comfortable discussing intensely personal topics with us.
Once we finish that initial consultation, we will make well-reasoned recommendations on the best way to proceed with your case. Should you want to protect your rights, give us a call today to book an appointment.