Attorney General Jeff Sessions says federal law does not protect gay workers from being fired.
Sessions is flat-out wrong, as a federal appeals court in Chicago persuasively argued back in April.
The wonder is why the Trump Administration — first the president and now Sessions — seem so keen on squelching the rights of LGBTQ people and driving them back into the closet.
On Wednesday, Sessions, a conservative ideologue, thrust the Justice Department into a federal lawsuit, Zarda v. Altitude Express, in which a skydiving instructor claimed he was fired by his employer for being gay. A New York appeals court is considering the case. Session’s brief was filed on the same day President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people can no longer serve in the military.
In the Zarda case, the Justice Department wrote in an amicus brief: “The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII [of the U.S. Civil Rights Act] reaches sexual orientation discrimination. It does not, as has been settled for decades.”
Fortunately, Sessions doesn’t get the final say. And we’re counting on the New York appeals court to reach the same conclusion the U.S. Court of Appeals did in Chicago in April, when it ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.
In that case, Hively v. Ivy Tech, a woman said she was denied full-time employment and a promotion because she is a lesbian. The appeals court ruled, entirely logically, that since Title VII prohibited discrimination based on a person’s sex, it therefore follows that it prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, the two being inevitably intertwined. Whether an employee might be fired for having a photo of a wife on a desk at work, for example, has everything to do with whether that employee is a man or a woman.
Sooner rather than later, we hope, the Supreme Court will weigh in and make clear Title VII protects gay workers from discrimination. Until then, pathetically, folks like Sessions and Trump will continue to do their best to trash basic civil rights.
Sessions and his Justice Department did not have to jump into the New York case. Another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, already had weighed in — on the side of the gay skydiving instructor.
Trump would like to fire Sessions so that he can appoint a bigger weasel of an attorney general to kill a Justice Department investigation into Russia’s involvement in the presidential election. The two men are not getting along.
But they are bullies of a kind when it comes to beating up on LGBTQ people.
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