A federal judge in California has ruled that the nation’s ban on sex discrimination in education includes a ban on sexual orientation discrimination, in a ruling thought to be the first of its kind, according to Think Progress and Buzzfeed.
In the case of lesbians Layana White and Haley Videckis vs. Pepperdine University, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson decided last week “ that sexual orientation discrimination is not a category distinct from sex or gender discrimination.”
The women, who are in a relationship, sued the school, claiming they were mistreated by their basketball coach at the Christian university due to their sexual orientation.
“I was being targeted and some of the treatment, I thought, was just completely unfair,” Videckis told Los Angeles TV station KABC earlier this year. The coach said “lesbianism isn’t tolerated here. Lesbianism is real and a big problem in women’s basketball. And I directly remember the date of that meeting because it just stood out to me that someone could use that word in such a derogatory way,” Videckis told the station.
According to legal filings, the women were repeatedly interrogated by their coach as to whether there were any lesbian or bisexual basketball players on their team. They were asked whether they slept with their beds pushed together, whether they went on vacations together and asked to provide gynecological records.
They filed a lawsuit against the school alleging discrimination in 2014. White claimed the stress of discrimination caused her to suffer from severe depression and even attempt suicide.
Students at the school were supportive of the couple, staging a protest against the university. In a statement, the University said: “We take allegations of this kind, and they are only allegations, very seriously.” However, the judge’s ruling came after the university attempted to have several of the charges against it dismissed, claiming Title IX law did not apply to sexual orientation discrimination.
The judge disagreed. “Claims of sexual orientation discrimination are gender stereotype or sexual discrimination claims,” he wrote.
This “appears to be the first time a federal judge has issued such a ruling as it pertains to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal ban on sex discrimination in education,” wrote BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner.