Queer justice department employees are ‘afraid their jobs are in jeopardy’ over landmark Supreme Court LGBT rights cases

William Barr, nominee to be US Attorney General, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing

LGBT+ employees at the Department of Justice are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if the Trump administration arguments win out in three landmark Supreme Court cases about LGBT+ discrimination protections.

In a letter to the attorney general, DOJ Pride – which represents LGBT+ DOJ employees – says that the cases have caused “alarm” and that employees are “afraid that their jobs could be in jeopardy”.

“DOJ Pride members, our families, and our communities have a lot riding on the question those cases pose: whether Title VII protects LGBTQ individuals from workplace discrimination based on who we are and whom we love. The department’s answer, advanced in briefs in August and in oral arguments in October, is that it does not,” the letter, addressed to attorney general William Barr, states.

The set of cases could determine whether millions of LGBT+ workers are protected under the US’s most powerful federal workplace anti-discrimination law, or whether it is legal to fire people on the basis of their identity.

The Trump administration’s DOJ filed briefs in all three historic cases, which were heard on October 8, supporting the legal right of employers to discriminate against LGBT+ employees.

The DOJ Pride letter to Barr continues: “We recognise that the department was arguing in favour of a particular interpretation of a federal statue, and that it was not advocating that LGBTQ individuals are underserving or unworthy of protections against discrimination. But many of our members did not perceive the Department to have made such a distinction.”

“Some reach out to us in alarm, afraid that their jobs could be in jeopardy.”

One of the cases – that of trans woman Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home after coming out as trans – saw the Supreme Court look at transgender civil rights for the first time in its history.

The DOJ filed a brief in August saying that it is legal to fire someone for their gender identity.

In 110 pages of court documents, justice department lawyers avoided using gender pronouns for Stephens, instead referring to her by name.

“We found a clear and negative impact on employee morale,” the DOJ Pride letter says of these events. “Every response [to a survey of its members] but one reflected concern, dismay, and even distress about the cases.”