News Brief: Trump Officials Insist Discrimination Against Gay Employees is Legal

by Aaron Shepard
in News
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News Brief Trump Officials Insist Discrimination Against Gay Employees is Legal

News Brief Trump Officials Insist Discrimination Against Gay Employees is Legal

News Brief:  Trump Officials Insist Discrimination Against Gay Employees is Legal

Officials from the Department of Justice appeared in court in late September to argue that discrimination against gay employees is legal.

Under President Obama, the Justice Department regularly intervened in court battles to argue for civil rights protections for LGBT people.  Under Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, though, the Justice Department has abruptly shifted its stance.

The DOJ made an uninvited intervention in a workplace discrimination case, with officials appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.  The Manhattan court was hearing the case of Donald Zarda, a former skydiving instructor who alleges that his old company, Altitude Express Inc, fired him because of his sexuality.

In its surprise intervention, federal government officials sided with the employer, arguing that it is entirely legal to discriminate against gay employees on a federal level.

Zarda’s lawyers had cited civil rights protections from the 1960s in their case.  But the Department of Justice now insists that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination in employment based on sex, does not provide any protection for gay people.  As Republicans in Congress have long blocked efforts to pass a specific LGBT anti-discrimination measure, a ruling against Title VII would leave little federal protection for LGBT people facing discrimination at work.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Hashim M. Mooppan appeared before the court to argue against gay rights protections.  Mooppan insisted, “Employers under Title VII are permitted to consider employees’ out-of-work sexual conduct.  There is a commonsense, intuitive difference between sex and sexual orientation.”

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation does not fall within Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination because it does not involve “disparate treatment of men and women.”