A federal appeals court on Monday ruled gay employees can sue their employers for discrimination on the basis of sexual-orientation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The judges for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City came to the same conclusion made by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago last April. However, a federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled the opposite way last year when considering the federal civil-rights law, according to the Wall Street Journal, (LINK)  

It’s a topic federal courts have debated for years. Is discrimination for sexual-orientation covered under the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits sex discrimination? Legal analysts and court watchers say there’s a high probability that the U.S. Supreme Court may take a look at the issue.

The New York case involved a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Donald Zarda, a gay skydiving instructor who alleged he was fired by his employer after a female customer complained about the instructor’s admission of his sexual orientation.  Zarda claimed his employer had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Zarda died in 2015. 

The 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled 10-3 in favor of the plaintiff, writing “sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.”

Gay rights groups cheered the ruling, saying it builds momentum to their longstanding push to protect gay employees from discrimination in the workplace, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Melissa Zarda, the plaintiff’s sister, said her family feels “vindicated by this historic, landmark ruling.”

Saul Zabell, an attorney for the defendant company, said the judges “exceeded their judicial mandate” and “chose to ignore the facts of the underlying matter.”