Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing federal law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
At issue is the scope of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (or, Title VII). The federal law which barred discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, or sex. The Supreme Court is tasked with deciding whether the sex portion of the law includes sexual orientation or gender identity in three related cases in October.
Schmitt and the 13 other state attorneys general stressed they were not arguing in favor of discrimination but are instead looking at the intent of the law as written.
“The question presented in these cases is not whether federal law should prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the brief said. “Title VII prohibits only ‘sex’ discrimination, and the plain meaning of ‘sex’ is biological status as male or female, not sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for Schmitt, said the brief “should not be interpreted as speaking to the merits of the issue, but rather the interpretation of the law that is written.”
“Should Title VII need to be rewritten at the federal level is up to Congress, not the courts. This brief is about examining the original intent of the law and debating legislative powers versus judicial overreach,” Nuelle said. “Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt believes strongly that every person, no matter their race, creed, zip code, or gender, should be treated with dignity under the law.”
Aside from Schmitt, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia signed onto the brief. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin also added his signature.
Steph Perkins, the executive director for the non-profit PROMO, said about two-thirds of LGBTQ people have reported experiencing discrimination in his or her lifetime.
“Since [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,” Perkins said in a statement.
Democratic Rep. Greg Razer filed a bill in the General Assembly this year that would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. HB 208 was referred to a committee but never made it to the House floor.
The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, often referred to as MONA, has been filed consistently for two decades.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.