Justice Dept. Looks to Delay Decision in Transgender Case (1)

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By Chris Opfer

The Justice Department is getting more time to weigh in on a transgender discrimination case that already has exposed a rift in the Trump administration.

The U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 15 granted Solicitor General Noel Francisco an extension to reply to a Michigan funeral home’s request for the high court to take up the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2017 became the first appeals court in the nation to find that a federal ban on sex discrimination includes gender identity bias. It said R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes violated the law by firing Aimee Stephens when she began transitioning to a woman.

The issue has divided the Trump administration. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on behalf of Stephens, arguing that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination banned by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The DOJ, which exclusively represents the government in Supreme Court cases, says Congress didn’t intend the law to stretch that far.

It remains unclear whether the Justice Department will allow the EEOC to participate in the case. Spokeswomen for both agencies declined Bloomberg Law’s requests for comment.

The case is one of three testing whether federal workplace discrimination law already bans LGBT bias that the Supreme Court could take up when it reconvenes for the fall term. The other two cases involve workers who say they were fired because of their sexual orientation.

The court gave the DOJ until Sept. 24 to file a response.

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