A group of Republicans and other conservatives filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday (3 July) in support of LGBTI workers fighting discrimination.
In April, the Supreme Court announced it would review three cases regarding LGBTI equality and discrimination at places of employment. Many hope this will settle the debate of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Title VII grants federal protections against discrimination for certain identities. People disagree, however, whether ‘sex’ applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Prior to lawyers’ arguments, interested parties can file an amicus brief as amici curiae, or ‘friends of the court’.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who is involved in two of the three cases, published the numerous briefs filed by groups on Wednesday.
‘Republicans, former Republicans, and political conservatives from diverse backgrounds’ filed one of the briefs.
Republicans arguing for equality as ‘textualists’
This brief is led by Kenneth Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee and served in the George W. Bush White House. He also came out as gay in 2010.
The conservatives who signed onto this brief are ‘textualists’. Textualists are those who believe that strictly text outlines the law, not other history, interpretation, or intent.
They argue that ‘basic principles of textualism resolve’ the debated interpretation of Title VII and therefore these three cases.
‘Amici believe that Title VII’s plain language protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status,’ they write.
‘Both textualism and precedent accordingly command that Title VII’s words be applied to mean what they say: It is unlawful for an employee’s sex to contribute to an employer’s decision to discharge or otherwise dis-criminate against the employee.’
Mehlman added in a separate statement: ‘Members of the Republican Party should support people’s ability to reap the rewards of their labor — to earn a fair and honest living, and to work where they want to work.
‘We are the party of economic freedom, personal liberty and limited governmental interference, and treating LGBTQ workers fairly is consistent with our principles.’
Other groups file similar briefs
Numerous other groups also filed briefs on behalf of the LGBTI employees suing for discrimination.
These groups include over 200 companies, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Muslim Organizations, The Trevor Project, the American Psychological Association, and more.
The three cases
In the first case, a funeral home fired its director, Aimee Stephens, when she came out as transgender. She said she would be coming to work as a woman and they responded that would be ‘unacceptable’.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Stephens’ favor in March 2018, saying her firing violated Title VII.
Donald Zarda is the defendant in the second case. Altitude Express, Inc. fired Zarda from his skydiving job due to his sexual orientation. A federal court initially rejected his discrimination claim before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII’s language about sex discrimination does apply to sexual orientation in February 2018.
Finally, an employer fired Gerald Lynn Bostock from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when they learned he was gay. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal in May 2018.
The Trump administration has come out against Title VII applying to sexual orientation and gender identity.