The Trump administration argues in a new filing to the Supreme Court that federal civil rights laws preventing discrimination don’t extend to gay people, and private companies are allowed to fire workers based on their sexual orientation.
The Justice Department, in an amicus brief submitted to the high court Friday, argued that the language in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employment discrimination “because of sex,” “does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation.”
Trump’s DOJ argues that the term “sex” is not otherwise defined in the law and that it, therefore, means the “ordinary meaning of ‘sex’” which refers to a person being “biologically male or female.”
“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the department said in the brief submitted by Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and other Department of Justice attorneys. “An employer thus discriminates ‘because of * * * sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
“The brief was submitted in combined cases concerning Gerald Bostock, a gay man fired from his job as a child welfare services worker by Clayton County, Georgia, and the late Donald Zarda, a gay man fired from his job as a skydiving instructor by New York company Altitude Express. The Bostock and Zarda cases are two of three cases concerning LGBTQ workers’ rights that the Supreme Court is expected to hear this fall,” reports NBC News.
NBC News adds:
In addition to the Zarda and Bostock cases, the Supreme Court is set to hear R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. That case concerns Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was beginning her gender transition. The Trump administration filed an amicus brief in the Stephens case Aug. 16, siding with the employer.
Prior to its amicus briefs in the Bostock, Zarda and Stephens cases, the Trump administration had already made its position clear on the scope of sex discrimination in Title VII. In July 2017, the Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Zarda case opposing the extension of Title VII discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. And in October 2018 — prior to the Supreme Court decision to hear the Stephens case — the Justice Department filed a brief with the high court siding with the funeral home. In the Stephens case, the federal government is pitted against itself, since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a defendant in the case.