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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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World Vision Appeals Employment Discrimination Case to Ninth Circuit

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Federal appeals courts are starting to wrestle with how nondiscrimination laws apply to religious organizations when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

After sustaining a court defeat in November, this week Christian humanitarian aid organization World Vision appealed an employment discrimination case to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A lower federal judge had set damages at $120,000 in the case earlier this month after ruling that the organization discriminated when it decided not to hire a job candidate in a gay marriage.

The case shows that gears are beginning to turn in federal appeals courts on the unresolved issue of how federal nondiscrimination law applies to religious organizations when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. World Vision’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit follows a ruling this month from the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in favor of a Catholic high school in a similar situation.

The courts are specifically considering the implications of the 2020 US Supreme Court ruling Bostock v. Clayton County. In that case, the high court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to gender identity and sexual orientation. The question for appeals courts now: What is the balance between religious liberty and those new Title VII protections against discrimination?

A federal district court judge ruled in November 2023 that World Vision had violated Title VII when it rescinded a job offer for a customer service position from a woman, Aubry McMahon, after learning about her same-sex marriage. World Vision had argued that the employment decision was justified because it has written standards of conduct that marriage is between a man and a woman. The judge had earlier ruled in favor of World Vision and then reversed his own ruling with a 47-page order.

Lawyers CT interviewed at the time said …

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