U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn/Facebook
Blackburn and other Congress members filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court hoping to limit future protections for LGBTQ+ people int he workplace.
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn does not think federal employment protections extend to the LGBTQ+ community, according to a court document, but advocates are asking her to change her mind.
Several members of Congress (including Blackburn) filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, offering up their expertise on Title VII. That’s the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that prohibits employment discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.”
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A case now before the Supreme Court could affect employers’ rights to fire gay and transgender employees. The Congress members’ brief says changing the law should be a legislative function — left up to Congress in other words — and not one to be decided in courts. But they do tip their hands on their feelings about the law.
”Title VII does not expressly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes,” reads the brief. “The text and legislative history do not support the view that Title VII was intended to protect them.”
The case was brought by three people — a skydiving instructor, a funeral home employee, and a state-government child welfare services coordinator — who all claimed they were discriminated against because they were gay or transgender.
The “sex” part of Title VII was meant to protect women, the Congress members said in the brief. They explain “sex” in the brief by saying “sex” — in quotes — a bunch of times.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity, despite their connection to sex, are not ’sex,’ per se,”reads the brief. “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based upon ‘things that cannot be defined or understood without reference to sex’ or ‘things that are directly connected to sex.’ Moreover, sex stereotyping is not a separate protected class, but rather a means of proving sex discrimination.”
Any way you describe it, amending the law could have real-world effects, the Congress members say, including ”collateral impacts on businesses and imposition on matters of conscience.” Oh, and the Affordable Care Act.
The brief was signed by eight U.S. Senators (Blackburn being one) and 40 U.S. Representatives.
On Tuesday, members of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) delivered petitions to Blackburn’s Memphis and Nashville offices urging her to remove her name from the brief. The group said 724 people signed the petitions at events in Memphis, Murfreesboro, and Nashville in the last month.
The petitions read, in part, “sex stereotyping is at the heart of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Your constituents in Tennessee need these protections and we ask you to speak for them.”
Tennessee Equality Project
TEP Shelby County chair Shahin Samiei delivers petitions to Sen. Blackburn's office.
TEP Shelby County Committee Chair Shahin Samiei delivered the petitions to Blackburn’s office in Memphis Tuesday.
“Having spoken with scores of Tennesseans, a consensus resonates that being fired for who we love or who we are is inconsistent with our values,” Samiei said in a statement. “Fire me for being bad at my job — don't fire me for being LGBTQ.”
TEP executive director Chris Sanders said the organization is contacted “every month” by LGBTQ+ people who have been discriminated against on the job.
“We need legal protections and we need Senator Blackburn to represent all of us,” Sanders said. “There is wide agreement across the political spectrum that everyone deserves the chance to earn a living.”