The Trump administration’s Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to rule that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on “sex,” does not include “gender identity.”
The DOJ’s brief filed Friday in the R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case contended it is the role of Congress, not the courts, to amend the law to include gender identity, if it chooses to do so.
Aimee Stephens, a biological man who identifies as a woman, filed a complaint with the EEOC in 2014 for wrongful termination against R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, claiming unlawful discrimination based on sexual identity.
The funeral home dress code has certain requirements in accordance with industry standards for men and women. Nevertheless, the EEOC determined the funeral home discriminated against Stephens by requiring its employee to dress as a man.
A federal district court ruled in the funeral home’s favor in 2016; in March 2018, however, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Stephens was wrongfully fired.
Law.com reported that the EEOC did not sign on to the Trump DOJ’s brief appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court last week, indicating the agency does not support the administration’s position.
U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in the government’s brief that the language in the Civil Rights Act is clear.
“In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex,” he wrote. “It did not encompass transgender status, which Stephens and the Sixth Circuit describe as a disconnect between an individual’s biological sex and gender identity.”
“In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace,” added Francisco.
The solicitor general went on to note that thus far, Congress has “consistently declined” to expand the Civil Rights Act to include gender identity.
R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes’ counsel, John Bursch with Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a brief also submitted Friday that Stephens’ view “drastically expands the meaning of sex discrimination and rewrites Title VII to add protected categories that Congress never included, all without advance notice to employers.”
Further, Bursch wrote his client “would have responded to a female employee who insisted on dressing as a man while working with grieving families the same way it responded to Stephens. Because it does not disfavor one sex compared to the other, Harris does not discriminate based on sex.”
The feminist Women’s Liberation Front filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court not to expand the definition of “sex” to include gender identity.
“WoLF’s interest in this case stems from its interest in protecting the safety and privacy of women and girls and preserving women’s sex-based civil rights,” the brief reads.
The group argued women’s constitutional rights are being threatened by the embrace of “the vague concept of ‘gender identity.'”
“Legally redefining ‘female’ as anyone who claims to be female results in the erasure of female people as a class,” the Women’s Liberation Front said. “If, as a matter of law, anyone can be a woman, then no one is a woman, and sex-based protections in the law have no meaning whatsoever.”
Another amicus brief was filed by the Independence Law Center on behalf of Dr. Paul McHugh, the University Distinguished Service professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The brief reads that the doctor “seeks to discuss the frequently heard claims about gender identity, which sometimes masquerade as science but are really ideological pronouncements not supported by scientific evidence.”
Independence Law Center senior counsel Jeremy Samek wrote in an email to The Western Journal, “We filed the brief on behalf of Dr. McHugh to highlight the dangers of ideology masquerading as science.”
“The biological nature of binary sex is fact, and manipulating healthy bodies to fit the mistaken beliefs of the mind is harmful,” he added.
John Knight, Stephens’ attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, stated in a brief to the court that his client was fired “because of sex.”
Knight elaborated, “but for the employee’s sex, the employee would not have been fired,” as he called for the Supreme Court to uphold the 6th Circuit’s ruling.
The Washington Examiner reported the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case after the start of its new term in October.
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