The Justice Department appears to be gearing up for a legal fight with the LGBTQ community



Jeff Sessions
Attorney
General Jeff Sessions.

AP Photo/Brynn
Anderson, file


The Department of Justice has argued that a pivotal civil-rights
law does not protect a worker’s sexual orientation against
discrimination, according to a new legal
brief
 published on Wednesday.

Pitted against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), a federal agency that oversees discrimination
complaints in the workplace, the DOJ argued in its amicus
brief that the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit should
reaffirm a previous ruling that the protection of “Title VII does
not reach discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal law that
prohibits employers from discriminating against its employees on
the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, and national
origin, is considered to be one of the most significant equal
opportunity laws enacted in the US.

The particular case
involved Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor who alleged in a
2010 lawsuit that his former employer, Altitude Express, had
violated Title VII by firing him for being gay.

The Justice Department and EEOC were invited to argue their
claims after the court agreed to listen to
outside parties.

“Following one jump, a customer complained that Zarda had
disclosed his homosexuality and other personal details during the
jump,” a legal brief from
the EEOC read. “Zarda was fired soon thereafter.”

The US District Court for the Eastern District of New
York first rejected Zarda’s claim by ruling that Title
VII does not offer protection on the basis of his
sexual orientation. 

Zarda died in a base-jumping accident in 2014.

The sole question here is whether, as a matter of
law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the
Justice Department’s brief said. “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.”

“Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
enforces Title VII against private employers … the EEOC is not
speaking for the United States and its position about the scope
of Title VII is entitled to no deference beyond its power to
persuade,” the Justice Department’s brief continued. 

The new filing comes the same day President Donald
Trump said “the
United States Government will not accept or allow transgender
individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,”
sparking bipartisan backlash over the surprise
announcement.

 

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