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Justice Department opposes gay, lesbian civil rights

A former instructor at a skydiving company in New York filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company claiming he was fired because of his sexual orientation. His claim that this falls under sex discrimination as outlined in the Civil Rights Act has been supported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, on July 26, the Justice Department informed the appeals court that the law applied to different treatment between men and women and not sexual orientation.

Most federal appeals court have reached similar conclusions, but the Obama administration took a different approach. Supporters of the Justice Department decision said that since Congress had declined to change the law to apply to gay and lesbian people, the law was being interpreted correctly. The Justice Department filed the brief on July 26.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union considers the action an anti-LGBT one. It also occurred on the same day that the president issued a tweet saying that transgender people would be unable to serve in the military. This uncertainty puts transgender people who have been in the military at risk of losing access to their pension and health care.

It is not yet clear what effect this action by the Justice Department or the tweets from the president may have on the rights of LGBT people in the military and the workplace. Certain classes are specifically identified for protection in the Civil Rights Act which states that people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of characteristics such as race, religion or gender. However, even cases of discrimination or harassment against these classes may not be straightforward since an employer may claim an employee's job performance led to termination or other actions against the employee.

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