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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 40
DOJ rescinds Transgender employment protections
Section One
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DOJ rescinds Transgender employment protections

Ends Obama-era Title VII rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has reversed Obama-era protections for Transgender workers in a new memo.

The two-page October 4 memo says that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies only to biological sex and not to gender identity.

'Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,' Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote in the memo. 'This is a conclusion of law, not policy.'

Sessions' memo reverses the Obama administration's position that Title VII protection 'encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.' Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, established that rule in a 2014 memo.

Current DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said the Obama administration was at fault for finding Transgender protections in Title VII in the first place.

'The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,' O'Malley said.

'Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today's action. This department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.'

The October 4 memo is consistent Sessions' narrow reading of Title VII. In September the DOJ argued before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that Congress never intended Title VII to cover sexual orientation.

Sessions' position also conflicts with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing workplace nondiscrimination protections. In 2012 the EEOC ruled in Macy v. Holder that Title VII covers discrimination against Transgender workers.

Christine Nazer, an EEOC spokesperson, said the agency has received the Sessions memo and is 'reviewing it' but would not comment on the substance of the new DOJ memo.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) said in a statement the Trump administration is 'determined to promote discrimination through a false view of the law that has been rejected again and again by the courts.'

'The attorney general does not get to make law, but he should at least read it,' Keisling said. 'Simply: He is once again abdicating his responsibilities to enforce the law. Courts have repeatedly ruled that transgender people are protected by sex discrimination laws in employment, education, housing, and health care. We'll see him in court.'

James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT and HIV Project, said the DOJ memo 'marks another low point' for the Sessions Justice Department.

'Discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination, just as DOJ recognized years ago,' Esseks said in a statement. 'We are confident that the courts will continue to agree and will reject the politically driven decision by Attorney General Sessions.'

Joel Kasnetz, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, also condemned the move as an attack on LGBT people.

'By reinterpreting our employment laws to try to stop protecting transgender people from discrimination, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions have revealed their real goal: turn the clock back to a time when life was even more difficult for LGBTQ people, transgender individuals in particular,' Kasnetz said.

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