Bishops Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Allow Employers to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Workers

Bishop Robert McManus

Key bishops in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have released a statement commenting on three cases which involve LGBTQ civil rights that the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for last week.

Bishop Robert J. McManus, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and Bishop James D. Conley, who are respectively the chairs of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, issued the statement urging the Supreme Court to maintain a limited definition of “sex” in the context of federal law:

“Words matter; and ‘sex’ should not be redefined to include sexual inclinations or conduct, nor to promulgate the view that sexual identity is solely a social construct rather than a natural or biological fact. The Supreme Court affirmed that sex is an ‘immutable characteristic’ in the course of establishing constitutional protections for women against sex discrimination in the 1970s . . . Redefining ‘sex’ in law would not only be an interpretive leap away from the language and intent of Title VII, it would attempt to redefine a fundamental element of humanity that is the basis of the family, and would threaten religious liberty.”

The crux of these cases is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. According to the National Catholic Reporter, the USCCB previously filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief about these cases. In the brief, the Bishops expand upon their decision to exclude sexual orientation from the legal definition of sex:

“Construing the term ‘sex’ to include ‘sexual orientation’ will create conflicts with many religious believers and with their institutions. Such an interpretation will affect the ability of churches and faith-based schools and charities to hire and retain employees who, by word and conduct, accept or at least do not contradict the organization’s religious message.”

The three cases being argued now, Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, would decide whether the word “sex” in Title VII includes sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Bondings 2.0 previously reviewed the significance of these three cases in greater detail, but here is a short refresher.

The first two cases deal with individuals allegedly fired for being gay. In the third, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission sued on behalf of a fired employee for allegedly being terminated for being transgender. The second case, Altitude Express v. Zarda, was thrown out in trial court, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Zarda, stating that Title VII applies in this case as discrimination based off sexual orientation is “a subset of sex discrimination.”

By resisting that Title VII includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its consideration of workplace discrimination, the bishops are not preventing harm within Catholic institutions. Instead, they are hurting LGBTQ employees within Catholic schools, universities, charities, and hospitals, not to mention LGBTQ Catholics employed everywhere. Though the bishops cite that as Catholics they want to ensure “the dignified treatment of all persons,” working against the protection of LGBTQ people under the law will achieve no such goal.

Melissa Feito, October 15, 2019

17 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    One step forward.Two steps back. This is nothing less than the promotion of discrimination. These bishops are actually asking for others to have the power to fire someone at will. They seem to have few qualms themselves when they themselves have terminated a teacher. If someone can be fired for being gay, then what is to stop someone from firing a straight person ? If sexual orientation is the reason to lose employment , the sword should cut both ways. This is seeking to promote a kind of Christian ‘sharia’ law. The Court should expressly forbid this kind of interference.

    • Poolgirl
      Poolgirl says:

      Equal protection under the law! These bishops are acting purely out of selfish motives. They are protecting discrimination and should be ashamed that they cannot see human beings as Christ sees them.

  2. Ann Connolly
    Ann Connolly says:

    I hope New Ways Ministry will submit comments to SCOTUS to provide balanced Catholic views— countering bishops’ opposition to legal employment protections.

      • Stephanie Jones
        Stephanie Jones says:

        Thank you for your support. I am a transgender woman who knows I am God’s unique creation and saved by His grace and not my works. My response to that gracious LOVE is to extend my love to all of His other children.

  3. chris herrmann
    chris herrmann says:

    this, right here, is exactly why i finally went from lector and Eucharistic minister (30 years) to not even attending Mass any more. i was about to give up when Benedict got tossed in favor of Francis, and i gave Francis a good, long time, i feel, to finally take the Church in a better direction, and he didn’t do nearly enough. this discrimination and treating people badly based on who they love is utterly unacceptable. and i’m done.

    • Wordsmith
      Wordsmith says:

      Then, rather than complain here, write to Francis! (He’s got a fb page) let him know your feelings on the issue and the non-Christian, non-Catholic attitude of these bigots!

  4. James Sheya
    James Sheya says:

    So sad that the Catholic Church still regards homosexuality as being a choice rather than being born with a gay sexual orientation. I don’t believe that the church will change in my lifetime and most baptized gay catholics I know have left the church.

  5. John Sweeney
    John Sweeney says:

    This makes my flesh crawl. How DARE they? Being gay isn’t an “inclination,” no matter how desperately they wish it were. What it IS is another manifestation of God’s love. This makes me ashamed to be Catholic. We do not live in a theocracy, again, no matter how desperately they wish we did. According to our constitution, we are ALL equal under the law. They do not get to dictate to ANYONE. Again, I say shame on them.

  6. Friends
    Friends says:

    For those who are new here: Bishop McManus is a troublesome far-right-wing zealot, and his antics have been documented several times in New Ways Ministry prior to this. He presides in the Diocese of Worcester, MA — which is also the location of the College of the Holy Cross, a prominent Catholic college, of which I happen to be an alumnus. McManus constantly harasses the Jesuit administrators of Holy Cross, even though he has no authority whatsoever over the College. This authority rests with the Jesuit Provincial of the New England Region, which stands firmly behind the leadership of Fr. McFarland. McManus has also been known to show up unannounced at churches in the Diocese of Worcester, to deliver hellfire and brimstone sermons to the startled congregation. He has been arrested for drunk driving, and his own mother had to go to the jail to bail him out! I wouldn’t be dredging up such idle gossip, were it not for the fact that he has behaved horribly and hatefully toward the pastors of many of the local churches in the Diocese of Worcester. He is a very troubled man, and I’m frankly surprised that the Holy Cross administrators haven’t used their own political clout to get something done about removing him.

  7. Patrick Riley
    Patrick Riley says:

    Bob, as an employment lawyer for decades, I was never certain that sexual orientation would be included in the definition of sex in Title VII. However, time it has evolved through case law, both administrative and judicial, to include sexual orientation. But I will not be surprised if this Supreme Court returns to the 1964 definition of sex which honestly did not incorporate sexual orientation. The answer is for Congress to act and pass the Equal Rights Act, or the Equality Act as it is entitled now.

  8. Rita Cotterly
    Rita Cotterly says:

    I fluctuate between “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” and “They are responsible for knowing what they are doing.” I BEG the bishops to get informed about sexuality issues AND the Gospel. I can’t imagine Jesus discriminating against LGBT individuals or any individual for that matter. I am angry, No, enraged. I am sad. Bishops, too, are subject to American laws. They should be encouraging the Supreme Court to uphold the dignity of every person. They can start out by welcoming the LGBT community and by not firing them for whom they are. (I am an 83 year old heterosexual Catholic.)

  9. Eli R
    Eli R says:

    Where do the Bishops have the gall or audacity to challenge the US Constitution and Civil Rights in the name of Religeon.They need to tend to to the plank in their own eyes before fetching a splinter out of their neighbor’s eye. In reference to all the church scandal and abuse. The bottom like is that we have Citizens of this country who want due process, humane treatment and consideration based on their status as Citizens and humans. This they want regardless of if they are LGBTQ or Zoroastrian. It means love your neighbor and mind your own buisness. Judge their work done for you and not their human expression and experience. Afterall we don’t live in some medieval catholic parish village where we need to worry about who is sleeping with whom.


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