PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The American Civil Liberties Union has accused South Dakota’s attorney general of taking the wrong side in civil-rights cases the U.S. Supreme Court heard Tuesday, regarding employment of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.
But Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said the ACLU misstated his position.
The three cases are about whether employers can dismiss workers over sexual orientation or gender identity. They turn on how narrowly or expansively a majority of the nine justices define sex under Title VII of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The ACLU said Tuesday “officials in South Dakota filed a brief asking the court to rule against the three individuals who had been fired for being LGBTQ.”
But Ravnsborg, a Republican, said he had signed South Dakota onto a brief prepared and filed by the states of Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.
In a statement, Ravnsborg said he found it “troubling that the ACLU would put out a press release filled with misinformation.”
“The ACLU further muddies the waters by stating that the only purpose of the suit is to make it legal to fire LGBTQ people,” Ravnsborg said.
The ACLU statement said Ravnsborg was “sending a message to LGBTQ South Dakotans that their highest elected government officials don’t believe they should live free from discrimination.”
“No one should have to fear that they can be fired just because of who they are,” Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director, said.
Skarin continued: “This is a cruel, unnecessary move that does nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or grow our workforce.
“If President Trump gets his way at the Supreme Court, it will give his administration the license to take even more dangerous actions against transgender people, including denying health care or kicking people out of their homes. It would put kids and families at risk,” she claimed.
Two of the employees in the cases are ACLU clients from other states. The non-profit organization is arguing that “discrimination against LGBTQ people is unlawful sex discrimination.”
Ravnsborg said the ACLU misunderstood the argument made by South Dakota and the 14 other states in their friend of the court filing.
“The ACLU, in 2019, is trying to read the result they desire into the law from 1964. An actual reading of the brief and its arguments reveals that the basis of this case rests with the definition of ‘sex’ as it exists in Title VII as written in 1964,” Ravnsborg said.
He contends Title VII “prohibits only ‘sex’ discrimination, and the plain meaning of ‘sex’ is biological status as male or female, not sexual orientation or gender identity.”