A group of Justice Department employees says its members are “afraid” that Attorney General William Barr doesn’t have their back after the department’s lawyers argued against LGBTQ protections before the Supreme Court.
DOJ Pride, a group representing the department’s LGBTQ workers, sent a letter to Mr. Barr saying the administration’s stance has “a clear and negative impact on employee morale.”
The group said it surveyed members to assess their reaction to the administration’s positions and the responses reflected “concern, dismay and even distress about the cases.”
“Various respondents told us they believe that the department does not support its LGBTQ workforce and that the department thinks LGBTQ people do not need or deserve anti-discrimination protections,” the group said in the letter.
DOJ Pride said the department’s positions may reduce its ability to attract and retain talent, meaning that employees will be less comfortable coming out at work, and have “set back its mission of promoting justice, fairness and equality.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to The Washington Times’ request for comment.
Mr. Barr addressed these types of concerns in April with a statement in which he promised sexual orientation and gender identity will be protected under the department’s equal employment opportunity policy.
DOJ Pride’s letter came in response to the department’s position in three cases currently before the high court, all centering on whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex, thereby protects employees from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco, whose job it is to represent the administration before the Supreme Court, argued last month before the high court that the statute does not extend such protections.
“The issue is not whether Congress can or should prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation,” Mr. Francisco told the justices. “The issue, rather, is whether it did so when it prohibited discrimination because of sex.”
DOJ Pride said it understands that the department was arguing in favor of a particular interpretation of a federal statute but said, “many of our members did not perceive the department to have made such a distinction.”
The group asked Mr. Barr to reaffirm his commitment to LGBTQ protections regardless of the cases’ outcomes. Members also asked Mr. Barr to push for legislation to protect LGBTQ employees in the workplace.
“As you know, the tone you set at the top reverberates far and wide, so we believe that these actions would have a meaningful, positive impact on the morale of the department’s LGBTQ employees and would reinforce that we are not second-class employee at the Department of Justice,” they wrote.
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