As the Supreme Court prepares to hear cases on whether existing federal law should be interpreted as banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a plethora of organizations are weighing in — and some right-wing extremists are making the long-discredited claim that LGBTQ equality will lead to rights for pedophiles and other sexual predators.
The cases, which the high court will hear October 8, turn on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Lower courts have delivered conflicting rulings on the matter.
But a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Public Advocate of the United States, which, despite the name, is not a government entity, claims that an inclusive interpretation of the law “would weaponize Title VII, arming the Harvey Weinsteins of the world with a sex discrimination claim with which to counter the #MeToo movement against sexual predators in the workplace.” Really.
Those who support the inclusive interpretation argue that discrimination based on sexual orientation is rooted in the stereotype that people should be attracted only to members of the opposite sex. But Public Advocate says that antidiscrimination protections for people attracted to members of the same sex would lead to protections for those attracted to children, sex workers, and other people’s spouses, as well as those “oriented” to harassment. Its brief ignores the fact that pedophilia is a crime, as are the sexual assaults that Weinstein is accused of, and that many employers would not hire anyone with a criminal record.
Public Advocate is joined in its brief by several other far-right groups, including the Eagle Forum Foundation, an affiliate of the far-right political organization founded by the late antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly. She once argued that “virtuous” women need not fear sexual harassment on the job, as she seemed to believe harassers exclusively went after women who would welcome their advances, something that is clearly untrue. So for members of the extreme right to suddenly be worried about sexual harassment is disingenuous at best, but they will apparently try anything to block rights for LGBTQ people.
Several other anti-LGBTQ groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in these cases; these are briefs prepared by people and organizations that are not directly involved in a case but want to offer an opinion. Liberty Counsel’s brief argues that antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will endanger employers’ rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
“When businesses are compelled to refer to a person by his or her gender identity rather than biological sex, or based on choices concerning sexuality, it infringes the free speech rights of the business,” the right-wing legal group asserts. “Similarly, forcing business owners to make business decisions that conflict with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the owners of the entity raises free exercise of religion issues.”
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, joined by Concerned Women for America and other anti-LGBTQ groups, makes similar claims in its brief, which also says that being gay or transgender is unhealthy, and not because of the stress of discrimination. It quotes the work of homophobic and transphobic researchers, and contends that affirming trans children’s identity amounts to child abuse.
The National Organization for Marriage and Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, meanwhile, raise the questionable specter of transgender predators or, at least, men pretending to be transgender women to gain access to women-only spaces and commit assaults. These assaults would remain crimes in any case, but NOM and its partner use them to marshal an argument against trans equality, even though antiviolence groups have found that protections for trans people don’t endanger cisgender women and children.
And anti-trans author Ryan T. Anderson filed a brief asserting that if the court rules for an inclusive interpretation of Title VII, it would be “imposing a sexual orthodoxy on the nation” that would lead to the persecution of people with differing beliefs. “This Court should not treat biology as bigotry,” he concludes.
That’s just a sampling of the opinions of anti-LGBTQ forces; many groups and individuals that support LGBTQ equality have filed briefs as well, and you can read about them here.
The Supreme Court’s decision is expected next June.