Non-discrimination protections in federal workplace law do not cover “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other faith-based organizations have told the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ERLC signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs filed Aug. 23 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that urge the high court to rule that the classification “sex” in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not include “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
The justices will hear oral arguments Oct. 8 in two consolidated cases addressing “sexual orientation,” followed by arguments in an appeal regarding the “gender identity” issue.
The controversial matters have divided federal appeals courts and the two most recent presidential administrations.
Two appeals courts — the Second Circuit in New York City and the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati — ruled in 2018 that gay and transgender individuals, respectively, are protected under the category of “sex” in federal employment law. The 11th Circuit in Atlanta, however, decided last year that “sex” does not refer to “sexual orientation.”
Though “sex” was long interpreted to refer only to whether a person is biologically male or female, the Justice Department under President Obama determined it also encompassed people who identify as gay or transgender. President Trump’s Justice Department has returned to the previous interpretation.
With the cases, the high court has an opportunity to clarify a contentious sphere of law that sometimes involves the conscience rights of business owners, especially Christians, in conflict with the claims of their employees.
“The ACLU and others are bending the words of Title VII to mean what Congress did not write,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “This reckless misreading seeks to punish any who would dare disagree with the most radical aspects of the Sexual Revolution.
“My prayer is that the arguments this fall bring clarity to the public debate and that the justices would restore a natural reading of the English language to the application of these laws,” he said.
The friend-of-the-court briefs make largely similar arguments for rejecting a reading of Title VII to include gay and transgender rights.
“By forbidding workplace discrimination based on sex, Congress intended to level the playing field between men and women,” according to both briefs. “Differential treatment based on ‘sexual orientation’ [or ‘gender identity’], however, does not expose women to disadvantageous terms or conditions to which men are not exposed (or vice versa).”
“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are therefore “not sex discrimination,” the briefs say.
Title VII is “modest in scope,” protecting only five classes — “those who have been treated differently in the workplace due to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” according to the briefs.
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Source: Baptist Press