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Will Jeff Sessions intervene in landmark gay rights case?

Jeff Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies Jan. 10 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo: Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be about to intervene on a major gay rights case, with a deadline to do so quickly approaching.

At question in Zarda v. Altitude Express, currently before the full US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is whether longstanding civil rights law applies to sexual orientation.

While the Obama administration was working under this interpretation, but the Trump administration is much less LGBTQ-friendly, as witnessed by the decision to transcend a directive to public schools instructing them to respect the gender identity, ignoring pride month, and most recently banning transgender soldiers from the military.

BuzzFeed reports that Sessions may be poised to weigh in:

Taking a stand against the gay plaintiff in the case would be an unusual step for the Justice Department, given that another federal agency dealing with civil rights enforcement in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, supported the man last month in a court filing…

Yet numerous activists in the LGBT legal community told BuzzFeed News rumors are flying the Trump administration will weigh in on this current case, partly because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has distanced himself from the previous administration’s policies on LGBT rights and dropped lawsuits to protect transgender people.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department didn’t reply to BuzzFeed News’ request to comment on the lawsuit. The new administration, however, has already taken different positions in other instances from other federal agencies in court — facing off against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example.

The court set a July 26 deadline for amicus briefs against Zarda’s argument at the 2nd Circuit, meaning Sessions will need to act fast if he wishes to argue against gay rights.

A spokesperson did not reply to BuzzFeed‘s request for comment.

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