Trump targets legal effort to protect LGBT workers from bias

Trump targets legal effort to protect LGBT workers from bias

In an unprecedented break from decades of LGBTQ workplace policies, the Department of Justice filed a brief on Wednesday claiming that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gay workers from discrimination.

"The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination", the brief said.

Title VII "prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin".

The administration's stance challenges a group of 50 companies and organizations - including Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Viacom Inc. - that filed a brief in the same case in June arguing discrimination based on sexual orientation should be illegal, even if that would lead to more employee lawsuits.

The DOJ, however, claims that the EEOC can't make such a determination and that "any efforts to amend Title VII's scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts".

Here's the deal with the case: It's Zarda v. Altitude and it's about a gay skydiving instructor (Zarda) who said he was sacked by his New York-based company (Altitude) for being gay in 2010. "We are confident that the courts will side with equality and the people". His lawyers contend the dismissal violated of the act's Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination.

Zarda argued that his sexual orientation was a deviation of sex-based stereotypes - if he were a woman who was attracted to men he would not face this discrimination, but because he's a man who's attracted to men he faced discrimination.

"The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect", the department argued.

After a lower court ruled and the case was appealed, the 2nd Circuit invited outside parties to weigh in. Since federal law doesn't explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ people, this would effectively amount to an expansion of whom federal nondiscrimination law protects. Barely 12 hours after President Donald Trump launched a historic assault banning active duty transgender service members, his administration has told a federal appeals court the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect "homosexuals" from discrimination.

The new filing comes the same day President Donald Trump said "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military", sparking bipartisan backlash over the surprise announcement.

The Justice Department said the EEOC doesn't have the power to decide the issue.

"The brief also reaffirms the Department's fundamental belief that the courts can not expand the law beyond what Congress has provided", the spokesperson said. In March, an appeals panel in Georgia rejected a security officer's sex-discrimination claim.

"There has been an indication last time they considered this, where Chief Katzmann noted that this is still a developing issue in courts and he felt that court should reexamine whether sex orientation discrimination is covered under Title VII, so it has been mixed", Gruberg said. Joshua Block, an attorney with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, cited a 1998 Supreme Court case, Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc.