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16 states pushing to limit LGBT workplace protections

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LGBT workplace protections - Supreme Court

16 states pushing to limit LGBT workplace protections

Sixteen states in the US want the Supreme Court to overturn a decision of a lower court that says workplace anti-discrimination laws cover transgender workers as well.

The states pushed for this position after the 6th Circuit interpreted Title VII in the 1964 Civil Rights Act as protecting LGBT individuals against “sex discrimination.”

Ripping away LGBT workplace protections

The group filed an amicus curiae (or “friend-of-the-court”) brief stating that Congress didn’t intend to protect LGBT individuals with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity when they passed the Act.

Led by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, the group was composed of 13 attorney-generals representing states like Texas, Alabama, Kansas and Utah.

It also included three GOP governors: Kentucky Gov. Matthew Bevin, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, and Mississippi Phil Bryant.

The brief stated that the Sixth Circuit’s opinion “erases all common, ordinary understandings of the term ‘sex’ in Title VII and expands it to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgender’ status.”

“In doing so, the lower court rewrites Title VII in a way never intended or implemented by Congress in the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the brief noted.

“The States’ purpose is to note that ‘sex’ under the plain terms of Title VII does not mean anything other than biological status,” Peterson said of the brief.

In response, Dylan Waguespack, LA Trans Advocates board chair, said the message of the brief is “that we do not see trans people as worthy people to protect from discrimination and we’d like to make sure that folks know that if they are trans that they’re on notice and I think that that is a dangerous, hateful message.”

LGBT workplace protections for trans workers

The brief filed was in response to the decision by the 6th Circuit against RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc. in Detroit, finding them in violation of Title VII anti-discrimination laws.

The funeral home had fired its funeral director, Aimee Stephens, after she had revealed to the owner that she was transitioning.

At the time, the American Civil Liberties Union described the decision “an exciting and important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country.”

“In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client … personally experienced,” John Knight, a senior staff attorney with ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

“The states, courts, and the public in general agree that people should not be fired from their job because they are transgender and that support is only growing,” Knight added.

LGBT workplace protections in the Trump era

As of present, the Supreme Court will decide if it will take the case. Two other cases on sexual orientation bias as a form of sex discrimination has also come under their purview.

Presently, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers LGBT bias as banned, the Justice Department under President Donald Trump disagrees.

Moreover, twenty states and Washington, DC directly ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Utah and Maine also have bans.

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