Fort Worth Judge Decides Religious Businesses May Be Protected From LGBTQ Discrimination Claims |


FORT WORTH, Texas – A federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas has ruled that for-profit businesses with sincere religious beliefs can be protected from allegations of LGBTQ discrimination, with exceptions to protections of sexual orientation and identity gender previously granted by the United States Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s Sunday ruling ruled that Braidwood Management Inc., a Christian operator of healthcare companies in Katy, Texas, may avoid LGBTQ anti-bias protections under the Act. restoration of religious freedom and the First Amendment. Anti-bias protections derive from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964.

O’Connor also said religious nonprofit organizations such as Keller-based Bear Creek Bible Church can refuse to hire and fire LGBTQ employees under Title VII religious exemptions. Under Title VII, an employer can apply for a religious exemption if it can demonstrate that it is a “society, association, educational institution or religious society”.

Braidwood and Bear Creek sued the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the landmark 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that Title VII applies to LGBTQ workers.

What the Bostock decision did not define was whether and how religious businesses could be exempted from such provisions. Braidwood and Bear Creek have sought to strengthen Title VII religious exemptions for themselves and for “those in the same situation” so that they can make employment decisions based on religious beliefs.

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“The Supreme Court has not decided to what extent companies owned by people with strong religious beliefs could be exempted from this general rule,” said Scott McElhaney, lawyer in the Dallas office of Jackson Walker LLP. . “This opinion of Justice O’Connor is the first decision on this issue.”

Braidwood employs around 70 people who work in one of three healthcare companies owned or operated by Stephen Hotze, a doctor and Conservative activist. Hotze does not allow employees to engage in “homosexual behavior or gender non-conforming conduct of any kind,” according to court documents.

Additionally, Braidwood does not recognize same-sex marriage or extend benefits to an employee’s same-sex partner, as Hotze believes it would make him “an accomplice in sin, violating his sincere religious beliefs.”

Bear Creek, a non-denominational church, said it requires its employees to live by the Bible when it comes to sexuality and gender. The church also does not recognize same-sex marriage and denies same-sex partner benefits of any employee.

O’Connor’s decision means that both entities can continue these employment practices without fear of being responsible for LGBTQ discrimination.

The judge also ruled that workplace policies regarding sexual conduct, dress codes and toilets did not violate Title VII, but federal law covers policies regarding “bisexual conduct” and hormone therapy.

Churches have long been exempt from Title VII, McElhaney said, which means O’Connor’s decision is not revolutionary in that regard.

“The part that will have a wider impact is the ruling on religious businesses, those owned by people with strong and sincere religious beliefs,” McElhaney said.

The litigation on this issue is probably far from over. O’Connor’s decision can be appealed to a federal appeals court, a process that could take months or years.

Mitchell Law and Fillmore Law Firm represented Braidwood and Bear Creek. The Department of Justice represented the EEOC.

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