Oct 8, 2019

Trump administration argues civil rights law doesn't cover LGBTQ workers

Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on Oct. 8. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to rule that LGBTQ people can be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Where it stands: The administration's involvement in LGBTQ cases supplements a 2-year White House playbook to undo many protections the LGBTQ community secured under President Obama. One of the cases is the first to ask the court to determine the civil rights of transgender people, per the ACLU.

The big picture: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination "because of sex." The Justice Department argued in 3 cases Tuesday that those rules don't ban discrimination against LBGQ or transgender workers.

The Justice Department is at odds with its own Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the case of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a funeral home because she wanted to "dress as a woman," according to the business owner's testimony. The EEOC sued on Stephens' behalf in 2014.

What they're saying: The administration argues that "Title VII’s protections apply fully to transgender individuals" when it comes to sex discrimination — women being treated worse than men, or vice versa — but "treating a transgender person less favorably than a non-transgender person" is not part of the law's protections.

  • It says there is no "evidence that the funeral home treated some or all biologically male employees less favorably than similarly situated biologically female employees."

The other side: "Congress wrote a broad statute that prohibits all sex discrimination," Chase Strangio, part of Stephens' legal team at the ACLU and a transgender activist, tells Axios. "When an employer fires someone for being transgender, no matter how sex is defined, that is discrimination because of sex."

In 2 other cases, which were argued together, the Trump administration says that Title VII doesn't cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both suits were filed by men who say they were fired for being gay.

  • An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships doesn't violate Title VII as long as it treats men and women in those relationships the same way, their argument says.

Yes, but: 69% of Americans — and 56% of Republicans — favor laws that would protect LGBTQ people from job and housing discrimination, a 2018 PRRI survey found.

What to watch: This issue — alongside cases on abortion access, guns and immigration — will likely come to a head next summer before the 2020 presidential election.

Go deeper: 2019's Supreme Court cases to watch

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LGBTQ town hall: What you need to know

Photo: Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Nine 2020 Democratic presidential candidates took questions on LGBTQ issues at a CNN town hall Thursday night.

The state of play: 2020 Democrats are pressing for protection against workplace discrimination, advocating for LGBTQ rights abroad, and changing HIV-specific criminal exposure laws. They also support reversing actions taken by the Trump administration that undo LGBTQ protections secured under President Obama.

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Second-term Supreme Court cases to watch

Photo: Nurphoto/Getty Images

The Supreme Court, now with a solid conservative majority after Justice Brett Kavanaugh's appointment, is hearing cases that could have long-term ramifications on immigration, LGBTQ employment protections and access to abortion.

The big picture: The high court — with 5 conservatives and 4 liberals — kept a relatively low profile in its first term this year. But it could hand major wins to Republicans in 2020's second term, emboldened by Kavanaugh's appointment and sharpening their focus as a slew of hot-button disputes work their way up from lower courts.

Key cases to watchArrowUpdated Oct 18, 2019

Tinder is still a challenge for transgender daters

Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

On Tinder's support account on Twitter, one of the biggest complaints about the dating site remains transgender users saying their accounts have been improperly suspended.

Why it matters: Tinder has taken a number of steps to improve the experience for LGBTQ users, including adding more sexuality options earlier this year and, back in 2016, offering more gender options and taking steps to better protect transgender users from having their accounts improperly banned.

Go deeperArrowOct 25, 2019