Yesterday, the Justice Department responded to a lawsuit filed by David Baldwin, who is claiming that he was fired from his post in the Federal Aviation Administration due to his sexual orientation, and that being fired for that reason is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Department argued in favor of the FAA. As Buzzfeed News reported yesterday, this is great news for the LGBT community.
It’s great news because the Justice Department chose to argue the case instead of moving to dismiss it outright, as cases claiming employment discrimination based on sexual orientation have been in the past. By arguing the merits of the case, rather than simply claiming that the plaintiff has no standing because they are a gay man and not a straight woman, the Justice Department is accepting the premise that the Civil Rights Act’s protections against sex discrimination extend to cover sexual orientation (it already holds that the Act protects employees based on gender identity). Their defense of the FAA only argues that this particular case doesn’t constitute discrimination — not that, in general, LGBT people don’t have legal protections in the workplace. As Tico Almeida, the civil rights attorney who founded Freedom to Work, told Buzzfeed:
The Justice Department made the correct call by defending this case on the facts rather than making the outdated and conservative legal argument that the Civil Rights Act does not protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.
In other words, even if the Justice Department doesn’t agree with Baldwin’s claims, they do agree that he has the right to make them. That’s huge.
Even as the Justice Department defends the FAA in Baldwin’s lawsuit, their actions actions line up with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had previously issued a decision ruling in Baldwin’s favor, holding that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the federal government was already illegal.
Momentum is building for the rest of the court system to agree.