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A federal appeals court has ruled for the first time that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, setting up a likely battle before the Supreme Court over the scope of the 53-year-old law.

The 8-to-3 decision Tuesday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago comes just three weeks after a three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled the opposite, saying employers can discriminate based on sexual orientation.

LGBT rights organizations hailed the Chicago ruling as a “game changer,” in part because the 7th Circuit is considered relatively conservative. But the majority opinion and dissent in the case highlight a sharp difference between judges who say the interpretation of laws can change with the times and those who say judges should apply them as written.

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