Just hours after President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would no longer be permitted to serve in the armed forces, the Department of Justice on Wednesday launched what is being characterized as a separate attack on the LGBTQ community, this time by arguing in a legal brief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect gay workers from discrimination.
"Attacks against the LGBTQ community at all levels of government continue to pour in from the Trump-Pence administration."
—Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign
James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement that Wednesday "will go down in history as Anti-LGBT Day" and denounced the Justice Department's brief as a "gratuitous and extraordinary attack on LGBT people's civil rights."
"The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination," Esseks added. "Fortunately, courts will decide whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people, not an Attorney General and a White House that are hell-bent on playing politics with people's lives."
The Justice Department's filing was aimed specifically at a case that "kicked off in 2010 when Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, filed suit against his employer in federal court in New York, alleging the company terminated him for his sexual orientation in violation of Title VII" of the Civil Rights Act, reports Buzzfeed's Dominic Holden.
Holden adds that the DOJ's involvement in the case is abnormal because "the department doesn't typically weigh in on private employment lawsuits." Futhermore, the department is not a party to the case.
Nonetheless, the Justice Department—headed by Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose voting record on issues affecting the LGBTQ community has been described as "deeply disturbing"—issued forth its contention that sex discrimination barred by the Civil Rights Act does not extend to sexual orientation.
— Civil Rights (@civilrightsorg) July 26, 2017
I don't even have words left. I am exhausted. What a repugnant administration. https://t.co/xiFgcan1VJ
— Calvin (@calvinstowell) July 26, 2017
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent federal agency, previously ruled in Zarda's favor, arguing that Title VII bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
"EEOC interprets and enforces Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation," the agency's website states.
"The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination."
—James Esseks, ACLU
Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which slammed Trump's transgender ban as an "all out assault on service members," said in response to the Justice Department's filing that "attacks against the LGBTQ community at all levels of government continue to pour in from the Trump-Pence administration."
"In one fell swoop, Trump's DOJ has provided a roadmap for dismantling years of federal protections and declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may no longer be protected by landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII," said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow. "Today's filing is a shameful retrenchment of an outmoded interpretation that forfeits faithful interpretation of current law to achieve a politically-driven and legally specious result."