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The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that prospective jurors can't be excluded by lawyers based upon their sexual orientation.
The court ruling noted that gays should be accorded the same protections as minorities, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The Supreme Court already ruled in 1986 that people couldn't be removed based on their race. The same protection was given to gender in 2000.
"Strikes exercised on the basis of sexual orientation continue this deplorable tradition of treating gays and lesbians as undeserving of participation in our nation's most cherished rites and rituals," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote.
The issue came up because of an antitrust case between two drug companies over an AIDS drug, according to The Associated Press.
One of Abbott Laboratories' lawyers had a prospective juror removed shortly after the man made a reference to having a male partner during the questioning phase of jury selection.
While Abbott Laboratories eventually won, a new trial has been ordered as a result of the appeals court ruling.
image: Wikimedia Commons