The Justice Department and Christian groups both signaled they will appeal parts of a Texas federal court’s ruling over a sweeping push to be shielded from LGBT discrimination liability based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Justice, which represents the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said on March 15 that it will appeal the final judgment from a Fort Worth-based judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Braidwood Management Inc., Bear Creek Bible Church, and other nonprofits groups that sued the EEOC signaled in February their plan to appeal.
The broad class action lawsuit against the EEOC, which challenges the enforcement of federal civil rights laws that protect LGBT workers, was filed on behalf of nonprofits, churches, and all private businesses that raise sincerely held religious objections, whether in enforcing dress codes, bathroom policies, or refusing to hire certain workers.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’samended ruling from January largely sided with the Christian groups, and denied the EEOC’s motion to dismiss the suit. He allowed part of the proposed class to move forward, including the private businesses and nonprofits, such as Braidwood, for which religion isn’t the sole mission.
The judge also granted summary judgment for the religious businesses protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. He said policies that enforce dress codes, bathrooms, and health care for transgender individuals don’t violate Title VII.
O’Connor in January denied a ruling in favor of the church-based groups, concluding that those groups aren’t burdened by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit has been ongoing since before the U.S. Supreme Court found in June 2020 that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers fall under the sex bias protections of Title VII. The justices left unaddressed the scope of religious defenses to workplace discrimination liability.
The Christian groups are represented by Austin-based attorney Jonathan Mitchell, the Fillmore Law Firm, and American First Legal Foundation.
The case is U.S. Pastor Council v. EEOC, N.D. Tex., No. 4:18-cv-00824, notice of appeal.