A management services firm in Texas is asking a federal court to grant it a religious exemption to discriminate against LGBTQ people because the owner says he runs a “Christian business.”
And if they’re not allowed to summarily fire all LGBTQ people, then they’re asking the court to at least be allowed to fire bisexuals.
In his filing, Steve Hotze says that his company, Braidwood Management Inc., employs over 70 people but since he “operates his corporations as Christian businesses, he does not allow Braidwood to hire or employ individuals who are known to engage in sexually immoral behavior or gender non-conforming conduct of any sort, including homosexuality, cross-dressing, and transgenderism.”
He’s seeking to overturn the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) interpretation of Title VII, which was accepted last year by the Supreme Court in the landmark decision Bostock v. Clayton Co.
Title VII bans job discrimination “because of sex” and, in Bostock, the Court ruled that it’s impossible to discriminate against LGBTQ people without taking sex into account. For example, if an employer would fire a woman for marrying another woman but wouldn’t fire a man for marrying a woman, that’s inherently sex discrimination.
This is a problem for Hotze, since, he argues, the law violates his religious freedom and free association rights because he has “sincere and deeply held religious beliefs,” and apparently those beliefs forbid him from being near LGBTQ people. He also said that his church, Bear Creek Bible Church, needs a religious exemption because it’s not fully covered by the religious exemption in federal law, although he does not explain why his church isn’t already covered by the religious exemption.
Since that argument might not work – the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on that exact question but it has ruled in favor of anti-discrimination laws in the past, even when defendants claimed that their religious beliefs force them to discriminate – Hotze’s filing gets a bit more outlandish.
He argues that it’s possible to discriminate against LGBTQ people without taking sex into account, and therefore he could do it without violating Title VII. And he lists rules he could make up that would be “neutral” when it comes to sex but would allow him to never hire LGBTQ people.
No employee, male or female, may enter a gay bar or gay bathhouse.
No employee, male or female, may engage in the sexual practices associated with homosexuality.
No employee, male or female, may engage in “deviate sexual intercourse,” as that term is defined in section 25.02 of the Texas Penal Code.
No employee, male or female, may use Grindr (or other dating apps used primarily by homosexuals).
No employee, male or female, may seek or obtain hormone therapy unless it is prescribed for a medical condition other than gender dysphoria.
No employee, male or female, may undergo surgery to modify their genitals, unless that surgery is needed for a medical condition other than gender dysphoria.
Section 25.02 of the Texas Penal Code bans anal and oral sex, which would likely prevent Hotze from hiring most straight people as well if he weren’t just using it as a fig leaf for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
By the end of the filing, Hotze asks to at least be allowed to fire bisexual people.
“An employer who discriminates against all bisexual employees – regardless of whether they are male or female – cannot possibly be engaged in ‘sex’ discrimination under Bostock,” the filing states. “That is because the ‘same trait’ (sexual attraction toward members of both sexes) is treated exactly the same regardless of whether that ‘trait’ appears in a woman or a man.”
Even if that’s true, it’s probably not helping his legal argument that he has already admitted that his problem with bisexual people is his contempt for homosexuality.
Hotze has made the news in the past for his anti-LGBTQ extremism. In 2015, he went on a speaking tour in Texas to denounce “homofascists.”
“Homofascists were enabled and appeased by those who treated their behavior as normal or acceptable,” he said at the time. “The indoctrination started in public schools, by design. Remember: Homosexuals can’t reproduce. They have to recruit.”
Hotze – who once said that Supreme Court justices “want to let sodomites queer our country” – runs a PAC, Conservative Republicans of Texas, that sued in 2013 to get the city of Houston to stop offering marriage benefits to same-sex couples.
His PAC argued that he and the other plaintiffs “suffered a ‘particularized injury’ because they are devout Christians who have been compelled by the mayor’s unlawful edict to subsidize homosexual relationships that they regard as immoral and sinful, in violation of their sincere religions beliefs.”
In 2016, his extreme anti-gay rhetoric got the Conservative Republicans of Texas labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.