Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has now stepped into the fray. In its brief, the department noted that every Congress since 1974 has declined to add a sexual-orientation provision to Title VII, despite what it called ânotable changes in societal and cultural attitudes.â The brief also said that the federal government, as the largest employer in the country, had a âsubstantial and unique interestâ in the proper interpretation of Title VII.
In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Mr. Obama, issued a contrary ruling, deciding on a vote of three Democrats to two Republicans that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal. That ruling, which was reviewed by the Obama administrationâs Justice Department, did not formally bind the federal courts, although courts often defer to federal agencies when they interpret laws that come under their jurisdiction.
In its brief, the Trump administrationâs Justice Department said the E.E.O.C., which had also filed court papers supporting Mr. Zarda, was ânot speaking for the United States.â
In 2014, Eric Holder, Mr. Obamaâs attorney general, issued a memo stating that in any litigation that came before it, the Justice Department would take the position that the protections afforded by Title VII would be extended to include a personâs gender identity, including transgender status. The future of that memo under Mr. Trump remains unclear.
Mr. Holder noted the Trump administrationâs moves on Twitter on Thursday.
While the Obama administrationâs legal approach to gay rights evolved over time, it never declared that bans on sex discrimination applied to sexual…