In addition to banning transgender personnel from the military, Donald Trump’s government is also trying to ensure that American workers can be fired just for being LGBT.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a disturbing amicus brief in the case of a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who was dismissed after he told a customer that he was gay.
Zarda’s estate is pursuing the matter on behalf of the instructor, who has since died in a skydiving accident. It argues that he was discriminated against under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex and national origin.
The US Department of Justice, however, has told the Manhattan federal appeals court to reject the lawsuit and claimed in its brief that the federal law does not cover sexual orientation.
It stated that, “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation”, and said that any amendments to the law in this regard should be decided by congress and not the courts.
The DOJ’s anti-LGBT brief came on the same day as Trump’s transgender military ban was announced. Sarah Warbelow, Human Right Campaign Legal Director, said the brief was yet another attack “against the LGBTQ community at all levels of government” by the Trump 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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union described the DOJ’s brief as a “gratuitous and extraordinary attack on LGBT people’s civil rights”.
James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project said: “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.”
He expressed confidence that “the courts will side with equality and the people”.
More than 50 companies and groups, including corporations such as Microsoft and Google, earlier filed their own brief in the case, calling on the court to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.