Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is among the state leaders and others who have signed onto U.S. Supreme Court briefs that advise that Title VII federal employment law does not protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity — at least without further action by Congress.
Schmitt signed onto a brief for three cases the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments for on Oct. 8 — cases centered around a transgender funeral director, a gay skydiving instructor and a gay county child welfare services coordinator who have alleged they were fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law after years of struggle by people in the civil rights movement in courts, legislatures and on the streets to repeal and resist state laws that allowed racial segregation and denied legal rights to African Americans and other groups of people.
The legal questions in the cases the Supreme Court will hear are about whether "sex" in Title VII also includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
Schmitt is one of 14 attorneys general — including from Missouri neighbors Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee — who along with the general counsel to the governor of Kentucky signed onto a brief submitted Friday that advises the Supreme Court that "the plain language of Title VII, which reflects a congressional policy choice, does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (The states that filed) this brief to urge the Court to leave to Congress and to the political process any decision to make a different policy choice."
The attorneys general of 21 other states — including Illinois — and the District of Columbia signed onto a brief for the court submitted in July that advises: "As with other types of misconduct policed by both the states and the federal government, employment discrimination against LGBT workers is extensive and harmful enough to require a dual enforcement regime. The (states that filed the brief) and their LGBT residents will thus be exposed to significant harms absent this Court's recognition that Title VII bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status nationwide."
Missouri's U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler — among seven other U.S. senators and 39 other U.S. representatives — also signed onto a separate brief filed Friday for the Supreme Court that advises Congress' intent with "sex" in Title VII "was limited to protecting women," and that a broadening of Title VII "should be sought through the legislative process" and not the courts.
Other parties that have filed or signed onto briefs on the Supreme Court cases include Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations; LGBTQ organizations; teachers' unions and school board and superintendents' associations; local governments and mayors — including Kansas City, Missouri — and medical associations.
Steph Perkins, executive director of Missouri LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit PROMO, said in a Monday news release: "No one should be fired from their job simply because of who they are or who they love. But the harsh reality is that nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ people report having experienced discrimination in their everyday lives. Since Missouri Attorney General Schmitt believes that Title VII does not include protections for LGBTQ Missourians, we look forward to working with him to take action right here in Missouri to ensure hardworking Missourians can't be fired from their jobs, denied housing, or refused services simply because they are LGBTQ."