Politics

The Trump administration is pressuring the EEOC to turn its back on LGBTQ workers

Rainbow flag in front of the White House
A demonstrator holds a rainbow flag up to the fence surrounding the White House in Washington, DC during the National Equality March for LGBT rights in October 2009. Photo: Tony Webster, Via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0

The Trump administration is pressuring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to tell the Supreme Court that discrimination against LGBTQ people isn’t banned by federal law.

Trump’s Justice Department is supposed to represent the EEOC in oral arguments in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens, a case where a transgender woman was fired by the funeral home she worked at and the EEOC successfully sued them for discrimination. Now the funeral home is appealing to the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department has until today to lay out the government’s argument, and they don’t agree with the EEOC. So they have been in talks with the Republican EEOC officials to get the agency to change its position on LGBTQ discrimination, Bloomberg reports.

The Trump administration wants the EEOC to sign on to a brief that says that discrimination against LGBTQ people isn’t illegal in order to present a united front to the Supreme Court. The case could be a landmark decision that advances or sets back LGBTQ rights at the federal level.

In 2011 and 2012, the EEOC ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ people is banned under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. That law bans discrimination based on sex, and the EEOC ruled that discriminating against LGBTQ people is a form of sex discrimination since it’s based on sex stereotypes.

For example, a woman who is fired for being married to a woman was discriminated against if she wouldn’t have been fired if she were a man married to a woman.

Related: Most Americans oppose ‘religious freedom’ laws that allow for discrimination

Or, in the case of Aimee Stephens, she wouldn’t have lost her job if she were a man assigned male at birth. But because she is a woman assigned male at birth, she was fired and told that she was “violating God’s commands.”

The Trump administration disagrees with this interpretation of the law because, they argue, lawmakers in 1964 never thought the Civil Rights Act would apply to LGBTQ people. Moreover, the Trump administration and the Republican Party oppose workplace protections for LGBTQ people.

“The fact is, a prevailing majority of Americans believe LGBTQ people have equality in their communities, including the workplace,” said GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Yet, this administration is doing everything in its power to circumvent the will of the people and make LGBTQ Americans second class citizens.”

The EEOC has a 2-1 Republican majority with two vacancies. One of the Republican commissioners and the Democrat have both publicly stated that they disagree with the Trump administration’s position.

Stephens’s case is one of three LGBTQ workplace discrimination cases that will be heard by the Supreme Court this year.

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