DOJ: Civil Rights Act Doesn’t Cover Discrimination Against Gay Employees

Elaine Thompson/AP

The Department of Justice filed a brief on Wednesday evening weighing in on a workplace discrimination case, arguing that gay and bisexual employees are not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The brief, filed in the case of a man who claims he was fired for being gay, states, “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.”

It adds: “Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

The move seems to be at odds with the Trump administration’s official statement declaring that it would continue to enforce President Obama’s 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” according to the statement issued in January.

Now, his Justice Department is pushing back against past arguments by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual employees falls under sex discrimination.

The brief argues that because lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women get discriminated against equally, and homophobia isn’t rooted in the belief that one sex is superior to another, they can’t claim to be discriminated against on the basis of sex.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) slammed the move during an appearance on MSNBC, saying it was “antithetical to our core American values.”

“This is one of the reasons why I opposed Jeff Sessions in the first place,” she said. “It’s wrong, morally wrong.”

Another Democrat, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, released a statement: “Donald Trump promised the LGBT community he would fight for them. Now, on the same day he pledged to ban transgender Americans outright from serving in our armed forces, he dispatched his Justice Department to publicly argue in favor of workplace discrimination against gay Americans. I’m no longer surprised by the President’s hypocrisy. But I am offended by the cruelty of this assault on LGBT civil rights.”

As Whitehouse notes, the department filed the brief the same day President Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be banned from serving in the army “in any capacity.” The announcement sparked widespread criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

This post has been updated.