Utah Attorney General criticized for backing repeal of LGBTQ employment protections

Posted at 11:37 AM, Aug 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-25 10:36:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is being criticized for signing on to a legal filing supporting a rollback of employment protections for LGBTQ people.

The liberal-leaning think tank Alliance for a Better Utah criticized Reyes for signing an amicus asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case on workplace discrimination. The filing by Nebraska’s attorney general includes 13 other states. It seeks to overturn a federal court’s ruling in a Michigan case against a funeral home that fired a transgender employee. The attorneys general argue that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under federal workplace non-discrimination laws.

“The States’ purpose is to note that ‘sex’ under the plain terms of Title VII does not mean anything other than biological status. Unless and until Congress affirmatively acts, our Constitution leaves to the States the authority to determine which protections, or not, should flow to individuals based on gender identity,” the amicus says.

Alliance for a Better Utah blasted Reyes, a Republican, accusing him of turning his back on Utah’s own law passed in an historic compromise in the Republican-dominated Utah State Legislature that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing and employment.

“Three years ago, Utahns of all backgrounds came together to protect members of the LGBTQ community from employment discrimination in our state. Sean Reyes’ signature on this amicus brief is a flagrant violation of the spirit of that compromise based in inclusion and acceptance,” the group’s Chase Thomas said in a statement.

“Whether gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender, every person deserves to be able to pursue a career without fear of discrimination. Rather than simply being a legal argument, this could result in actual harm to LGBTQ persons across our state and the nation. Attorney General Reyes seems more interested in using his office to advance this extreme political position than protecting Utahns.”

Reyes’ office declined to comment to FOX 13 on Friday. He later wrote a blog post on the attorney general’s website, defending the amicus.

“First, SB 296 is not at risk. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris Funeral Homes will not affect Utah’s housing and employment protections for the LGBTQ community. Those Utah statutes are not (and will not be) the basis for any Court decision in Harris,” the attorney general wrote.

“Second, the brief doesn’t address whether prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity is good or bad policy. Instead, it makes the straightforward point that Congress—not the federal courts— should decide those types of policy questions.”

Reyes wrote that policy changes should come from legislatures.

“The role of American courts is not to redefine the law. When laws need to be amended to include a broader definition, that responsibility belongs to the appropriate legislative body, not the courts.

Read the amicus filing here.