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Trump administration files brief saying Civil Rights Act doesn’t protect sexual orientation

Another setback for LGBTQ Americans.


Samantha Grasso

Layer 8

Posted on Jul 27, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 10:36 pm CDT

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief saying Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gay Americans from sexual orientation-based discrimination at work.

The department filed the brief in the case of Donald Zarda, who sued his former employer for being fired after telling his sexual orientation to a customer. The DOJ’s brief contradicts the efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency for workplace civil rights disputes, which has spoken in favor of Zarda in the case.

“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the brief reads. “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts… Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

The brief also clarifies that Title VII only applies if men and women are treated unequally, alleging that “sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that” same result as gender-based discrimination. It should be noted, though, to discriminate against transgender people would be gender-based discrimination, not sexual-orientation based.

In its own court filing, the EEOC argued that Title VII protects from sexual orientation-based discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping, allowing the provision of gender to apply, according to BuzzFeed News.

Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department never gave full support to sexual orientation being covered by Title VII in civil disputes but allowed the commission to make such arguments in previous cases, according to CNN.

However, the department’s brief argued that “the EEOC is not speaking for the United States and its position about the scope of Title VII is entitled to no deference beyond its power to persuade” and that “any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

The American Civil Liberties Union called the department’s brief a “gratuitous and extraordinary attack on LGBT people’s civil rights,” stating it is confident the courts will side with equality.

“Fortunately, courts will decide whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people, not an Attorney General and a White House that are hell-bent on playing politics with people’s lives,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

The brief came on the heels of President Donald Trump‘s announcement banning all transgender people from serving in the military, citing burdensome medical costs that had already been debunked by the Department of Defense’s budgeting data.

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*First Published: Jul 27, 2017, 9:16 am CDT