Lawmakers to DOJ: Reverse stance on LGBT discrimination
- Lawmakers from both the House and the Senate penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) opposing its position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn't protect employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. DOJ had filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit to oppose a plaintiff's suit under the law.
- The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., involves a skydiving instructor who alleged that he was fired because he was gay. The appeals court initially held that federal law provided him no protections, but it has since agreed to reconsider its ruling.
- Reps. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) led more than 60 fellow lawmakers in writing the letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, takes the position that the law protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Although Title VII doesn't explicitly express protection for sexual orientation, the agency and some courts have interpreted the law's prohibition on sex discrimination to include sexual orientation. The commission made that position clear in a brief in Zarda, putting the agencies on opposing sides in the suit.
And the Zarda court (the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) isn't the only court addressing this question right now. The 7th Circuit is the only appeals court to agree with EEOC so far but with the 2nd Circuit reevaluating its position — and the 11th Circuit also considering whether to do so — a severe circuit split could soon emerge.