The Justice Department said in a federal lawsuit on Wednesday that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination, marking the beginning of a case that could have far-reaching impact if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an amicus brief, the department's lawyers wrote that the ban on sex discrimination does not include sexual orientation and it should be up to Congress to alter the relevant provision of the 1964 law.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act "makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity) or religion."
The Justice Department argues that Title VII only applies if men and women are treated unequally. "The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect," the brief says. “This court should reaffirm its precedent holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation."
A prior ruling determined otherwise. In 2015 a federal judge ruled in a Title IX case that "claims of sexual orientation discrimination are gender stereotype or sex discrimination claims."
"On the day that will go down in history as Anti-LGBT Day, comes one more 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," the ACLU said in a statement released today. "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. We are confident that the courts will side with equality and the people."