Statement of GLAD Executive Director Janson Wu on Department of Justice Filing in Second Circuit Title VII Sexual Orientation Employment Discrimination Case

Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General Jeff Sessions submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Zarda v. Altitude Express, a New York case in which the plaintiff brought a discrimination claim under Title VII, charging that he was fired for being gay. The DOJ’s brief makes the assertion that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are not protected from employment discrimination under the federal employment non-discrimination law. The Second Circuit granted en banc review of the case, suggesting it is time to reconsider existing circuit precedent, which attempts to force an unworkable distinction between sexual stereotype discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination. GLAD Executive Director Janson Wu released the following statement: “The DOJ’s brief stands in stark contradiction to what a growing number of federal courts and the Equal Opportunity Commission have come to understand: discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation is necessarily discrimination because of their sex. That is decisively prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While the Attorney General can say what he wants to, ultimately it is the proper role of the courts to interpret our federal statutes. I trust that the Second Circuit will carry out its duty to do so fairly.” GLAD joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights and WilmerHale in submitting an amicus brief to the Second Circuit. The brief makes the straightforward case that, but for a person’s sex, discrimination based on sexual orientation would not occur, and argues that the Second Circuit’s existing precedent is unworkable, and should be reconsidered.