By morning, the president attacked via tweet. By afternoon, he attacked via legal brief.
At the end of Wednesday, his Administration had scratched each letter in LGBT, and clawed at workplace protections for millions of Americans.
President Trump started his Wednesday tweeting that transgender soldiers were no longer allowed in the military, a fiat the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said is not yet enforceable. (Apparently, the president was not aware a tweet did not equal an official government directive.)
Later in the day, the president’s lawyers at the Justice Department filed a legal brief that argues federal law does not protect gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination. The Justice Department’s anti-LGBT position is directly opposed by another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed its own brief in favor of sexual orientation protections, a position the EEOC has had for years.
So how could two parts of the federal government read a major piece of federal legislation so differently? The answer lies in the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s words: It prohibits workplace discrimination “based on sex.” But the Act never defined “sex,” so courts have had to, and they are not in agreement. Enter the Justice Department on Wednesday.
The Trump Administration’s anti-LGBT stance reverses the Obama Administration’s evolving interpretation that expanded the number of Americans protected by the Act. Eventually, this unfair mess will likely get resolved by the nine justices of the Supreme Court.
Fortunately, Minnesota employees live in a state with robust workplace protections for LGBT workers. It is illegal for employers to discriminate based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Period. Minnesota is ahead of the federal government, but we hope the feds catch up. But as Wednesday demonstrates, they won’t anytime soon.