Make us your home page
Instagram

Justice Department says civil rights law does not protect gay people

Attorney General Jeff Sessions boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Sessions is traveling to El Salvador to meet with local leaders and discuss their efforts to fight gangs like MS-13. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]

Attorney General Jeff Sessions boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Sessions is traveling to El Salvador to meet with local leaders and discuss their efforts to fight gangs like MS-13. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]

The Department of Justice has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation in a case now being considered by a New York appeals court.

The department's decision to file a brief in the case was a rare example of top officials in Washington weighing in on gay rights in what is an important but essentially private dispute between a worker and his boss. Civil rights advocates criticized the filing not only for its arguments, but also for having been made on the same day that President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be banned from serving in the military.

The department's amicus brief was filed Tuesday in the case of Donald Zarda, a sky diving instructor who in 2010 was fired by his employer, a Long Island, N.Y.-based company called Altitude Express.

Before taking a female client on a tandem dive, Zarda told the woman he was gay in order to assuage any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he would be tightly strapped to her during the jump. The woman's husband complained to the company, which subsequently fired Zarda.

Zarda then filed suit against Altitude Express, claiming it had violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on "race, color, religion, sex or national origin."

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has now stepped into fray, as reported by BuzzFeed on Wednesday night. In its recent brief, the department noted that every Congress since 1974 has declined to add a sexual-orientation provision to Title VII, despite what it called "notable changes in societal and cultural attitudes."

The brief also claimed that the federal government, as the largest employer in the country, has a "substantial and unique interest" in the proper interpretation of Title VII. Although another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, filed its own brief supporting Zarda, the Justice Department brief claimed that the EEOC was "not speaking for the United States."

"The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination," the department's brief said. "It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII's scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts."

Justice Department says civil rights law does not protect gay people 07/27/17 [Last modified: Thursday, July 27, 2017 11:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]