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Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions - Pallone and Cicilline Lead Letter Urging Attorney General Sessions to Uphold LGBT Worker Protections

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

We write to you to express deep disappointment regarding the brief the Department of Justice filed in the case ofZarda v. Altitude Express, which is pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect lesbian, gay, or bisexual people from discrimination. We believe this action is not only contrary to existing law, but violates our nation's ideals of liberty and justice for all.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted to better protect Americans who have historically been vulnerable and marginalized. It enshrined the idea that Martin Luther King, Jr. stated so well that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Since then, our country has made incredible progress in working towards protecting the rights of all people, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. But we still have a ways to go.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 precludes employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission--the federal agency charged with enforcing Title VII's provisions and other employment non-discrimination laws--interprets that section to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, based on a growing body of caselaw. In fact, several federal district courts and, most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit have properly concluded that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination is understood to include discrimination based on sexual orientation. This reflects a growing consensus that discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation cannot be understood without reference to sex. To argue the opposite defies any reasonable interpretation of what sex discrimination means.

The Department of Justice's decision to weigh in on the Zarda case is not only incredibly disappointing, but contrary to existing law. Additionally, it comes on the heels of President Trump's announcement earlier in the day that transgender people will no longer be able to serve their country in the military--a decision that weakens the U.S. Armed Forces. Any discrimination is completely unacceptable. It tears at the fabric of our great nation and does not move us forward; it takes us backward. We urge the Department of Justice to reverse its position and to refrain from arguing against protections for LGBT people in any future Title VII cases dealing with the issue of whether sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


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