Taking a stand against a decision on work discrimination based on sexual orientation which was reached under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Justice Department has recently filed amicus brief which substantially argues that a major federal civil rights law does not actually safeguard any employee from discrimination based on sexual preference. Such an unusual move sets an example of Washington’s top officials making court interventions in a federal case in New York. The case involves a private dispute between an employer and his worker over gay rights issues.

Why the DOJ has a different stand on sexual discrimination

In this amicus curiae brief, the inquiry (according to the DOJ) concerns whether or not Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination.

The legal brief cites the 1964 Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

On Wednesday, the DOJ filed its court papers, which was simultaneous with President Trump’s announcement that transgender individuals are no longer allowed to serve in the armed forces. Civil rights advocates were convinced that the Trump administration tried to undermine the LGBT community and their rights which were hard-won under previous administrations.

Discrimination in the workplace: Mr. Zarda’s Case

The filing transpired in a discrimination case, involving a skydiving instructor, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Mr. Donald Zarda was fired by his employer in 2010. The company was Altitude Express.

When Mr. Zarda was about to take a female client on a tandem dive, he told her that he was a homosexual purposely to alleviate awkwardness as both of them would be strapped tightly to each other during the jump.

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The woman’s husband surprisingly filed a complaint about Altitude Express. As a consequence, Zarda lost his job leading him to sue the company because of violating Title VII.

Because of this, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has entered the fray. The DOJ accentuated that since 1974 every Congress did not actually add to Title VII a sexual-orientation provision regardless of the globally significant changes in societal and cultural attitudes. In the appropriate interpretation of Title VII, the federal government had a unique and substantial interest, being the largest employer in the country as stipulated in the brief.

A 2015 lower court decision on Long Island ruled against Mr. Zarda’s case. The court reached a decision that the sexual orientation was not actually among the civil rights law’s prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” in spite of the E.E.O.C. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) ruling. The Second Circuit in New York, moreover, sustained that decision.

On the other hand, the brief received a negative reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union, calling it a blatant “gratuitous and extraordinary attack on L.G.B.T. people’s civil rights.” Further, the director of the organization’s L.G.B.T. and H.I.V. Project, James Esseks, believed that the Trump administration and DOJ are apparently actively working to expose its constituents to discrimination.

According to Mr. Zarda’s legal counsel, the sky-Diving Instructor’s case failed in October 2015, citing that the state law requires a higher burden of proof than federal law in order to show sexual discrimination. And unfortunately, by the time the case was brought to trial, Mr. Zarda had passed away.