The Trump administration has filed a brief with the Supreme Court basically reminding the justices that it’s totally legal to fire a employee for being gay. Currently, there is no federal law to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination and the Trump administration wants to keep it that way.
This fall, three cases of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are set to apear before the Supreme Court and all three arguments rely on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” As previously mentioned, there is no federal law to protect workers from being discriminated against for their sexual orientation, so the best that these cases can do is use the Title VII ruling, which only forbids treating members of one sex worse than the other. The Justice Department filed a brief on Friday, August 23, 2019, which emphasizes that that particular federal law does not protect anyone from being fired for being gay.
This is all very ambiguous and confusing and to use the Reddit parlance, “explain like I’m five,” here it is: Three workers were fired from their jobs for being gay. They are taking these cases before the Supreme Court, but unfortunately, there are no federal laws to protect them so they’re like “well, what about this ruling that says you can’t discriminate against people on the basis of sex.” And the Trump administration is like, “No, that law is only to protect women from being discriminated against.” But instead of say, expanding said federal law to protect LGBTQ+ people from employment discrimination as well — the Justice Department is basically like, “If your employer fired you for being a member of the LGBTQ community, that’s on you.” It’s all very bad news.
“Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation,” it reads in the brief. “The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation.”
Basically, the Trump administration is taking advantage of Ttitle VII’s language to reinforce and even legitimize an employers right to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“If you are an LGBT employee in the U.S., you face a very complicated legal landscape when it comes to whether or not you can be discriminated against by a prospective employer,” Ineke Mushovic, executive director of Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank, told NBC News in July.
In the past, certain court rulings have exanded the Title VII language to protect gay employees while others rulings haven’t. In certain states, LGBTQ+ employees are protected and in other states they are not and to complicate matters further, some religiously affiliated organizations are excempt from said rulings.
Although the Justice Department is urging the Supreme Court to uphold the rigidy of the “on the basis of sex” argument, it still remains to be seen what the Supreme Court actually decides this fall.