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Clash of views centers on federal protections for LGBT workers

Well, here's a difference of opinion.

On the one hand, the legal advocacy group American Civil Liberties Union calls it a "gratuitous and extraordinary attack on L.G.B.T. people's civil rights."

On the other hand, though, the United States Department of Justice counters that it merely reaffirms that "courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided."

"It" is a legal brief filed last week by the DOJ in a federal case on appeal that involves a work-related dispute -- a firing -- between a company boss and a gay worker. The Justice Department has entered the fray in order to pose a single question to federal judges, namely, "whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination?"

Put another way, does the seminal legislation passed back in 1964 to protect the rights of discriminated employees in various select categories now additionally embrace members of the LGBT community at the workplace?

Opinion is divided. Those who say it does -- at least should -- include ex-U.S. Attorney General Anthony Holder, who issued a forceful memo on the subject back in 2014. His sentiments were backed up in a ruling issued a year later by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which, the New York Times noted in a recent article, stressed that "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation [is] illegal."

Proponents of the DOJ's case intervention last week deny that the government's legal brief on the matter seeks to undermine federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation. They state, rather, that they simply want it made clear that issues surrounding the scope of Title VII as regards discrimination "should be directed to Congress rather than the courts."

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