Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gues Civil Rights Act doesn’t cover LGBTs

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

The Jus­tice Depart­ment this sum­mer filed a brief ar­gu­ing that LGBT peo­ple are not pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion un­der Ti­tle VII of the Civil Rights Act.

For­tu­nately, courts will de­cide whether the land­mark Civil Rights Act of 1964 pro­tects LGBT peo­ple — not Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, said James Esseks, direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union LGBT and HIV Project.

The un­so­licited brief dropped in the 2nd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals the day Trump tweeted he planned to ban trans­gen­der peo­ple from the U.S. mil­i­tary. Ses­sions and Trump, Esseks said, “are hell-bent on play­ing pol­i­tics with peo­ple’s lives.”

The brief demon­strates the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is “de­ter­mined to im­pose ret­ro­grade poli­cies that roll back the civil rights of our most marginal­ized pop­u­la­tions,” ac­cord­ing to David Dinielli, deputy le­gal direc­tor of the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter in Alabama. “In do­ing so, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is pan­der­ing to anti-LGBT ex­trem­ists who are far out­side the main­stream.”

‘SHAME­FUL RE­TRENCH­MENT’

The case be­fore the ap­peals court in New York City, Zarda v. Alti­tude Ex­press, in­volves a sky­div­ing in­struc­tor who said his em­ployer vi­o­lated Ti­tle VII by fir­ing him in 2010 af­ter he came out as gay.

Ti­tle VII bans work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, color, re­li­gion, na­tional ori­gin and sex. The Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion en­forces Ti­tle VII and has said sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity are cov­ered un­der sex dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Jus­tice’s brief con­tends the EEOC “is not speak­ing for the United States and its po­si­tion about the scope of Ti­tle VII.”

In April, a three-judge panel for the ap­peals court up­held a lower court find­ing that the civil rights law does not cover sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

Now the full 2nd Cir­cuit is con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal of the panel’s find­ing.

Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman Devin O’Mal­ley said the brief ar­gues that the courts can­not ex­pand the law be­yond what Congress has pro­vided.

At­tor­ney Sam Schwartz-Fen­wick, a part­ner with Sey­farth Shaw LLP, said the am­i­cus brief by the DOJ adds more un­cer­tainty to an un­set­tled le­gal is­sue.

“In the past year alone, the 7th Cir­cuit has held that Ti­tle VII’s pro­hi­bi­tion on sex dis­crim­i­na­tion en­com­passes claims of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion dis­crim­i­na­tion, while the 11th Cir­cuit reached the op­po­site re­sult,” Schwartz-Fen­wick said. “Ab­sent Supreme Court re­view or leg­isla­tive ac­tion by Congress, it is likely that the law will re­main un­set­tled.”

Sarah War­be­low, le­gal direc­tor for the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, warned the DOJ has de­clared les­bian, gay, and bi­sex­ual peo­ple may no longer be pro­tected by land­mark civil rights laws such as the Fair Hous­ing Act and Ti­tle IX in ad­di­tion to Ti­tle VII.

“For over a decade, courts have de­ter­mined that dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of LGBTQ sta­tus is un­law­ful dis­crim­i­na­tion un­der fed­eral law,” War­be­low said, adding that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “fil­ing is a shame­ful re­trench­ment of an out­moded in­ter­pre­ta­tion that for­feits faith­ful in­ter­pre­ta­tion of cur­rent law to achieve a po­lit­i­cally-driven and legally spe­cious re­sult.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.