Court Battles

DOJ workers call out Barr over Supreme Court arguments against LGBT protections

A group of employees at the Department of Justice (DOJ) are raising concerns with Attorney General William Barr after the agency argued in front of the Supreme Court that LGBT workers are not protected by civil rights laws against employment discrimination.

DOJ Pride, a group representing LGBT Justice Department employees, wrote a letter to Barr dated Friday saying that the administration's stance on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had a "clear and negative impact on employee morale."

"Every response but one reflected concern, dismay, and even distress about the cases," the group wrote. "Various respondents told us they believe that the Department does not support its LGBTQ workforce, that the Department thinks LGBTQ people do not need or deserve anti-discrimination protections, that the Department will be less able to recruit and retain talented employees, that Department employees will be less comfortable coming out at work, and that the Department's litigating positions set back the Department's mission of promoting justice, fairness, and equality."

Last month, Solicitor General Noel Francisco appeared before the Supreme Court to argue against the plaintiffs in a handful of cases that will decide whether workers can be discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Justice Department's position is that the language in the Civil Rights Act protecting workers from discrimination on the basis of "sex" offers no protections for gay or transgender employees.

"The issue is not whether Congress can or should prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation," Francisco said during last month's oral arguments. "The issue, rather, is whether it did so when it prohibited discrimination because of sex."

In April, Barr issued a statement saying that gender identity and sexual orientation will be protected under the Justice Department's equal employment opportunity policy.

DOJ Pride asked the attorney general to reaffirm that commitment regardless of what the Supreme Court decides is protected under law. And the group asked Barr to advocate for legislation that would protect gay and transgender workers in the event the court rules that they are not covered under current civil rights laws.

"As you know, the tone you set at the top reverberates far and wide, so we believe that these actions would have a meaningful, positive impact on the morale of the Department's LGBTQ employees, and would reinforce that we are not second-class employees at the Department of Justice," the letter reads.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department did not respond when asked for comment.

 

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