States ask Supreme Court to limit LGBTQ workplace protections

States ask Supreme Court to limit LGBTQ workplace protections
© Getty Images

Sixteen U.S. states, including 13 attorneys general and three GOP governors, are asking the Supreme Court to limit protections for LGBTQ workers.

The states on Aug. 23 filed an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn a recent decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that held that workplace anti-discrimination laws extend to transgender workers.


The states, led by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, are insisting Congress did not intend to protect lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer individuals when they passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The brief states the 6th Circuit is incorrectly interpreting Title VII in the Civil Rights Act, which protects against "sex discrimination." 

"The Sixth Circuit’s opinion ... erases all common, ordinary understandings of the term 'sex' in Title VII and expands it to include 'gender identity' and 'transgender' status," the brief states. "In doing so, the lower court rewrites Title VII in a way never intended or implemented by Congress in the Civil Rights Act of 1964." 

GOP Govs. Matthew Bevin (Ky.), Paul LePage (Maine) and Phil Bryant (Miss.) joined the court filing alongside attorneys general representing states including Texas, Alabama, Kansas and Utah. 

The judges on the the 6th Circuit in March found that R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. in Detroit violated Title VII anti-discrimination laws when it fired its funeral director after she told its owner that she was transgender. 

The case was widely regarded as a win for LGBTQ advocates. 

The Maine Democratic party on Monday denounced LePage, who signed onto the friend-of-the-court brief. 

“After refusing to protect LGBTQ youth in Maine from conversion therapy, Governor LePage has turned his efforts toward making sure businesses can fire workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” the party’s chairman, Phil Bartlett, said, according to local newspaper the Portland Press Herald.

“Workplace discrimination laws are in place to ensure that all employees, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation, are treated with basic human dignity and fairness,” Bartlettt added. “By working to exclude LGBTQ Mainers from these protections, Governor LePage has once again shown that he does not stand with Mainers who are overwhelmingly in favor of upholding these basic standards of decency.”

Laws in 20 states ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Herald reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union at the time of the decision called it "an exciting and important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country."

“In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client ... personally experienced,” John Knight, a senior staff attorney with ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a March statement. 

The Supreme Court will decide in the upcoming months if it will take the case.