Justice Department: LGBT Not Protected By Civil Rights

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On the same day President Donald Trump issued a ban on transgender service members in the military, the Justice Department asserted in court that the Civil Rights Act should not extend federal protections to LGBTQ Americans.

On July 26, the Trump administration weighed in on a federal court case considering whether a workplace firing an employee based on their sexual orientation constituted discrimination. The DOJ filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit asserting that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act did not cover gay or bisexual Americans, Buzzfeed News reports.

"The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination," the DOJ stated. "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."

The 2nd Court of Appeals was hearing Zarda v. Altitude Express. Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who passed away in 2014, filed a lawsuit against his employer alleging that they had fired him because of his sexual orientation. The federal court case could potentially clarify whether the Civil Rights Act extends towards LGBTQ Americans.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act became law and prohibited workplace discrimination based on nationality, race, religion and sex. LGBT activists have asserted for decades that the federal law does not need to be amended to include gay, bisexual or transgender people because it already offers protections based on sex.

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The Obama administration supported the idea that Title VII already gave federal protections to gender identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had supported Zarda's assertion that the clause protected Americans based on sexual orientation. The DOJ filing, which was not solicited because the agency had not been involved in the lawsuit, blasted the EEOC's stance on the matter.

"The theories advanced by the EEOC and the 7th Circuit lack merit," the DOJ brief stated. "These theories are inconsistent with Congress's clear ratification of the overwhelming judicial consensus that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination."

20 states have adopted laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 18 have also instituted protections based on gender identification. In the remaining states, it is not illegal for an employer to fire someone for being gay, bisexual or transgender, according to Vox.

That same day, Trump took to social media to announce that transgender Americans would be banned from serving in the military.

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LGBT & HIV Project director James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the DOJ filing.

"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," Esseks said in a statement. "The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination."

The ACLU director asserted that the 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."

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump frequently pitched himself as an ally to the LGBTQ community.

"Thank you to the LGBT community!" Trump tweeted out on June 2016. "I will fight for you while [Hillary Clinton] brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs."

Sources: Buzzfeed News, Donald J. Trump/TwitterVox  / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr (2), Mathiaswasik/Flickr

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