The American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are among the groups who
have condemned the Department of Justice's position that LGBT people
are not protected from workplace discrimination under federal law.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department,
which is led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, filed a
friend-of-the-court brief in a case before the Second Circuit Court
of Appeal in which it argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 does not prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual
Plaintiff in the case is the estate of
Donald Zarda, which claims that his employer, Altitude Express, fired
him because he's gay. A three-judge panel in April ruled against
Zarda, saying that Title VII does not apply to sexual orientation.
Lawyers in the case appealed to the full court.
Under former Attorney General Eric
Holder, the department held that Title VII protected against
discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Justice
Department, however, has not previously held that Title VII protects
on the basis of sexual orientation.
Several courts, most recently the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, have held that Title
VII's prohibition on sex discrimination applies to discrimination
based on a person's sexuality.
The DOJ filed the brief on the same day
that President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets that the
military will no longer “accept or allow” transgender troops.
says military will bar transgender troops.)
“On the day that will go down in
history as Anti-LGBT Day, comes one more gratuitous and extraordinary
attack on LGBT people’s civil rights,” said James Esseks,
director of the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project. “The Sessions-led
Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working
to expose people to discrimination.”
“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. We are confident that the courts will side with
equality and the people,” he added.
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow
described the filing as a “shameful retrenchment of an outmoded
interpretation that forfeits faithful interpretation of current law
to achieve a politically-driven and legally specious result.”