Court Cases

This page lists several court cases within the past decade that have touched upon the issue of discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. It should be noted that case law in this area is ambiguous and does not necessarily give a cohesive overall message. These cases can also be found through Lexis Nexis Academic, and were assembled with the help of Barbara Semonche, the Park Library Director at UNC-Chapel Hill. Below you will find relevant pieces of the texts from various legal publications regarding these cases. Extraneous information has been omitted when possible. No further legal analysis has been done on the part of this site's creator.

U. S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans (517 US 620)
"In 1996 the U. S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans (517 US 620) struck down a Colorado constitutional provision that barred government from including sexual orientation in anti-discrimination policies. In Romer, the court said government generally may not single out people by their sexual orientation to discriminate against them, that such policies deny individuals equal protection under law: 'Central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution's guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance. ' Government can discriminate between classes of people only if there is a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest, the court said. "
-- Virginia Lawyers Weekly, March 27, 2006.

Tommy R. Schroeder v. Hamilton School District, et al., No. 01-1906.
"School administrators did not violate the constitutional rights of a gay teacher who suffered a nervous breakdown in the face of harassment from students, parents and co-workers, a divided federal appeals court has held. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments Monday that teacher Tommy R. Schroeder's right to equal protection of the law was denied when administrator failed to take effective steps to stop the taunts, graffiti and harassing telephone calls he endured. 'The question in this case is not whether the defendants did enough to engender a more positive attitude among its students and staff toward homosexuality,' Judge Daniel A. Manion wrote in the majority opinion. 'Rather, the only issue is whether the manner in which the defendants handled Schroeder's complaints of harassment denied him equal protection under the law.' It did not, Manion concluded."
-- Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, March 12, 2002

Weaver v. Nebo School Dist., 29 F. Supp. 2d 1279 (D. Utah 1998).
" Wendy Weaver was a tenured psychology/physical education teacher at Spanish Fork High School, having taught there for 19 years." "The trouble began in the late spring and early summer of 1997, when Weaver began preparing for the upcoming volleyball season by contacting prospective players about summer camps. In one conversation, a student athlete asked the teacher if she was "gay." The teacher truthfully said she was. This led to meetings involving the student, her parents, and the school; meetings between the school and Weaver's ex-husband; phone calls from concerned community members about the teacher's 'lifestyle'; and numerous internal school district meetings, all aimed at resolving the 'problem.'"

"The long and the short of it was that school officials believed Weaver's 'comments about her sexual orientation were in violation of district policy.'" " The end result was that Weaver received two letters, both of which were placed in her personnel file. Both advised her that she was not allowed to 'make any comments, announcements, or statements to students, staff members, or parents of students regarding [her] homosexual orientation or lifestyle.' The letters said she could be fired for violating those conditions."

"Weaver sued the school district, alleging that the two letters constituted impermissible restrictions on speech and that they were vague and overly broad. She also claimed that her removal as volleyball coach was based on an impermissible reason -- her sexual orientation -- and thus violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Judge Jenkins agreed with Weaver. It should be noted, however, that the decision went the way it did because Weaver was a public schoolteacher - the actions taken by the district were deemed state actions. It is unlikely that the decision would be the same in the private sector, where, in Utah at least, sexual orientation is not a protected category."
-- Utah Employment Law Letter, APRIL, 1999

Shahar v. Bowers, No. 93-9345 (11th Cir. 1997).

" the court found that an employer, who withdrew a job offer after discovering that the prospective female employee was planning an elaborate wedding ceremony with another woman, did not unlawfully discriminate. Robin Joy Shahar (nee Brown) was extended an offer of employment in 1990 with the Georgia Department of Law by the attorney general, Michael J. Bowers. The job was to begin in September 1991, after Shahar graduated from law school. In the meantime, Shahar was planning to wed her female partner and issued invitations to the ceremony to two employees in the department. The ceremony was scheduled to take place in June 1991. The invitations characterized the ceremony as a 'Jewish, lesbian-feminist, outdoor wedding.'"

"Bowers discovered the circumstances surrounding Shahar's wedding, including the fact that she was marrying an individual of the same sex in a religious, but not legal, ceremony. He decided to withdraw his job offer, in part because of the appearance of conflicts for Shahar in the enforcement and interpretation of various aspects of Georgia law. Bowers's decision was also based on serious doubts regarding the quality of Shahar's independent judgment and her ability to develop a supportive working relationship with other members of the department."