The Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Trump is urging the Supreme Court to rule against workplace discrimination protections for transgender people.
The DOJ submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on Aug. 16 asking the justices rule that Title VII, which protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, gender and national origin does not include protections for transgender people. The Supreme Court is set to hear three cases that involve Title VII’s application to LGBTQ workers.
This brief specifically refers to R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one of the cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear this year. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In the case, Thomas Rost, the director of the funeral home, fired Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who worked for the company from 2007 until her termination in 2013. Stephens had petitioned to the company to allow her to wear the company’s uniform for women instead of the suit and tie required for men.
The company fired Stephens for not complying with the dress code, saying, “Maintaining a professional dress code that is not distracting to grieving families is an essential industry requirement that furthers their healing process.”
Though the lower court ruled Title VII protected Stephens, the DOJ is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the decision, which would set a precedent allowing workplace discrimination against LGBTQ people and others.
The DOJ’s brief argues the application of LGBTQ rights to Title VII would go against the original intent of the legislation, which, the DOJ claims, was “originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities.”
It says in 1964 when Title VII was enacted, the understanding of sex referred only to biological sex, and the wording of the law refers to the unequal treatment of binary men and women in the workplace.
Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union spoke to HuffPost, saying if the Supreme Court follows the DOJ’s recommendation, the effects could reach further than the LGBTQ community to anyone whose gender presentation does not match a strict binary.
“People don’t realize that the stakes are extending not just the trans and LGB communities, but every person who departs from sex stereotypes: women who want to wear pants in the workplace, men who want more childbearing responsibilities,” Strangio said. “Those protections are also in peril with the arguments advanced by the Trump administration, presented at the Supreme Court.”
In July, the American Medical Association (AMA) and other mental and physical health care organizations filed a joint amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of LGBTQ rights in the cases the Court is set to take on. In short, the brief outlines the validity of gender dysphoria and the importance of workplace accommodations in supporting transgender people’s mental and physical health from a scientific point of view.
The additional cases the Supreme Court is set to take on had mixed decisions in lower courts. In Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled the firing of Long Island skydiving instructor Dan Zarda after telling a client he was gay was discriminatory. However in the similar case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Title VII did not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The DOJ is expected to file briefs on these cases next week, HuffPost reports.
With the Supreme Court being mainly conservative now, their ultimate decisions on these cases on the application of Title VII are unpredictable.