Major companies call on U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of LGBT workers

by Reuters
Tuesday, 2 July 2019 16:00 GMT

A woman walks up the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

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Amazon, Google and Bank of America were among 206 companies to file a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that bias against LGBT people is a form of unlawful sex discrimination

By Daniel Wiessner

July 2 (Reuters) - More than 200 U.S. companies, including Amazon, Alphabet Inc's Google, and Bank of America, on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender workers.

The companies filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that bias against LGBT people is a form of unlawful sex discrimination, and said a ruling otherwise would harm businesses and workers.

The Supreme Court in April agreed to take up two discrimination cases by gay men and one by a transgender woman who was fired from her job as a funeral director when she told her boss she planned to transition from male to female.

The justices will hear oral arguments in October and likely issue a ruling by the end of next June.

At issue is whether gay and transgender people are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion. President Donald Trump's administration has argued that Title VII's protections do not extend to LGBT people.

In their brief, the companies said the existing patchwork of state and local laws banning bias against gay and transgender workers harms businesses' ability to recruit and retain top talent and "generate innovative ideas by drawing on a greater breadth of perspective."

Other companies that signed onto the brief include Apple Inc , Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, Nike Inc , Uber Technologies Inc, and Citigroup Inc .

Dozens of businesses have previously urged federal appeals courts to rule in favor of LGBT workers. But the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group, said the 206 companies on Tuesday's brief was twice as many as before.

Trump, a Republican with strong support among evangelical Christian voters, has taken aim at LGBT rights. His Justice Department at the Supreme Court supported the right of certain businesses to refuse to serve gay people on the basis of religious objections to gay marriage.

In a ruling in that case last month, the court sided with a Colorado baker who refused, citing his Christian beliefs, to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. But the court stopped short of setting a major precedent allowing people to claim religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

The Trump administration also restricted transgender service members in the military and rescinded protections regarding bathroom access for transgender students in public schools. (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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