James Pittman faced discrimination because he was gay—that, nobody denies. As an employee at Cook Paper Recycling Corp. in Missouri, Pittman was subject to vile homophobic harassment: Employees called him a “cocksucker,” asked whether he had AIDS, mocked him for being gay and having a boyfriend, and ridiculed him when they broke up. Then Cook Paper fired him.
Pittman sued, alleging he was subject to illegal workplace discrimination. The court promptly dismissed his suit, ruling that Pittman’s harassment was perfectly legal. Neither Missouri nor federal law explicitly bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the court reasoned, so Cook Paper’s employees were free to torment, mock, and fire Pittman for being gay. On Tuesday, the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.