Coming off the heels of a controversial Wednesday announcement that trans people could be banned from serving in the military, the Trump administration continues its streak against LGBT rights on Thursday, as the Justice Department files court papers in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit arguing that civil rights laws should not protect LGBT workers from discrimination.
This argument by the Justice Department could very well result in gay and trans people being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or denied health care on the basis of their identities. The papers filed by the department denote a complete 180 from the Obama administration, which utilized amicus briefs to intervene in court cases and protect LGBT rights.
Led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department is stating that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination based on a number of identity-based characteristics, does not provide any protections for gay people, despite how the CRA outlaws sex-based discrimination. The argument is that the Civil Rights Act does not specify that “sex” also relates to sexual orientation and identity,
According to the briefing filed by the department Thursday, “in common ordinary usage” the word “sex” means only “biologically male or female,” the government said in its brief, quoting prior rulings. Following this logic the law can only protect people who have been disfavored because of their sex, not because of their sexual orientation.
If this view is formally upheld by courts across the country, the result could be disastrous for members of the LGBT community, particularly in parts of the country that are already notorious for hostility toward this demographic. Gay and trans people could be evicted, fired, or be exposed to harassment and inequality in education.
As the Washington Post notes, the department’s decision could also have substantial effects on education. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law meant to fight against discrimination, is interpreted “in sync with rulings on the employment discrimination law,” the Post notes. This is how the Obama administration justified efforts to enforce bathroom and locker room equity for transgender students, largely to protect trans students from bullying and harassment.
The Human Rights Campaign has since responded by calling the papers an attack on “landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII.”
The Justice Department had no obligation to get involved with the conflict in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but Sessions’ record as an opponent of LGBT rights makes his decision to get the department involved unsurprising.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.