transgender protest
Demonstrators assembled outside the White House on Monday to protest President Donald Trump's reported plan to officially define gender based on the sex assigned at birth, effectively denying the existence of transgender people. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“The equality principle is so simple and obvious; it’s a disgrace the government is affirmatively arguing for a narrow, pro-discrimination interpretation.”

by Jake Johnson, CommonDreams.org

In an escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on the LGBTQ community, the Justice Department Friday night filed a brief urging the right-wing Supreme Court to legalize the firing of workers solely for being transgender.

Buzzfeed described the Justice Department’s move, which was widely condemned by rights groups, as one of the Trump administration’s “most aggressive steps yet to legalize anti-transgender discrimination.”

As Buzzfeed reported:

Although the administration was expected to take the stance—and had previously said firing workers on the basis of gender identity is legal under federal law—the latest court filing asks the nation's top court to establish federal case law in a potentially sweeping setback for LGBTQ rights nationwide.

The case is a dispute over the word "sex." Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans workplace discrimination because of sex, but the court's justices have never decided what, precisely, the term means for LGBTQ workers.

The Justice Department's brief on Friday contends the word refers to a person's "biological sex" and, further, that transgender discrimination isn't addressed by a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that found Title VII bans sex stereotyping.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights condemned the Justice Department’s filing as “outrageous.”

Chris Geidner of the Justice Collaborative tweeted that “it’s a disgrace the government is affirmatively arguing for a narrow, pro-discrimination interpretation of Title VII, a remedial law aimed at minimizing discrimination.”

The Supreme Court, which President Donald Trump has driven further to the right with the nomination of two Republican judges, agreed earlier this year to hear three cases that consider whether federal civil rights law prohibiting workplace discrimination applies to LGBTQ workers.

Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, told HuffPost that the cases could have far-reaching implications.

“People don’t realize that the stakes are extending not just the trans and LGB communities, but every person who departs from sex stereotypes: Women who want to wear pants in the workplace, men who want more childbearing responsibilities,” Strangio said. “Those protections are also in peril with the arguments advanced by the Trump administration, presented at the Supreme Court.”

The DOJ’s filing comes just days after the Trump Labor Department unveiled a rule that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ workers as long as they have a “religious” justification.

“This is taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Period,” tweeted the ACLU. “Nearly one-quarter of employees in the United States work for an employer that has a contract with the federal government. This rule seeks to undermine our civil rights protections and encourages discrimination in the workplace—and we will work to stop it.”