LOS ANGELES (AP) A federal judge has ruled that sexual orientation is covered under a law that bans gender-based discrimination in educational programs, allowing two former women's basketball players to proceed with their lawsuit against Pepperdine University.
U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson found that a 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at federally funded colleges and universities covers the women's claims that they were discriminated against because they were dating.
''If Plaintiffs had been males dating females, instead of females dating females, they would not have been subjected to the alleged different treatment,'' Pregerson wrote in his Dec. 15 ruling.
The ruling was reported Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1QVVEVe ).
In their lawsuit, former Pepperdine basketball players Haley Videckis and Layana White alleged that their coach wanted them off the team because their relationship would affect the team's performance, the Times reported.
The women - who left Pepperdine last year - said team staffers questioned them about their sexual orientation and sought access to their gynecological records.
Pepperdine sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that Title IX of the 1972 law doesn't cover claims based on sexual orientation. The school's lawyers also wrote that any negative comments about women dating on the team were made in an attempt to promote team unity, the paper reported.
But Pregerson cited an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision on another federal statute that says allegations of sexual orientation discrimination ''necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.''
Peter Rustin, a lawyer for Pepperdine, declined to comment on the decision.
Jeremy Gray, an attorney for the women, said Pregerson's ruling reflects how the courts and society are taking a deeper look at issues related to gender and sexual orientation, noting the recent shift on same-sex marriage.
''In light of there being no federal anti-discrimination law for sexual orientation, it's potentially a quite significant ruling,'' said Doug NeJaime, faculty director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/