DOJ Argues That Discriminating Against an Employee for Their Sexual Orientation Isn't Discrimination


Continuing to stand proudly on the side of bigotry, on Wednesday the Trump administration’s Justice Department broke from established interpretations of federal civil rights law to argue that employees are not protected against job discrimination on basis of sexual orientation. The DOJ submitted the opinion in an amicus brief filed with a New York federal appeals court on the same day that Donald Trump banned transgender people from the military.

The appeals court is considering the case of skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who said he was fired from Altitude Express after he told a woman customer that he was gay, claiming it a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Zarda died in a skydiving accident before the case went to trial and is now represented by his estate.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employment discrimination on basis of race, color, religion, sex, and ethnicity. While it does not exclusively state “sexual orientation,” protections for LGBTQ individuals were adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and supported by the Obama administration’s Justice Department. However, the lack of clarity in the law has led to disagreement among lower federal courts for years, CNN notes.

In the brief, the Justice Department argues that “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

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

A 1989 Supreme Court decision opened up the interpretation of “sex” to include sexual identity, the Washington Post reports, in the case of a woman employee who was denied partnership because she failed to adhere to feminine stereotypes. However, the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on whether “sexual orientation” is explicitly protected under Title VII.

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