Jeff Sessions Attacks Trans Civil Rights With A Memo That Ignores All Kinds Of Precedents

The Trump administration’s attack on LGBTQ civil rights continues this week as the Department of Justice weakens federal workplace protections for transgender employees, which were feeble enough as it was.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo on Wednesday that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination against sex, race, and other categories of identity, does not protect workers on the basis of their gender identity. Its prohibitions against sex discrimination are limited to biological sex, the memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says.

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” the memo says. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”

The DOJ issued a similar statement with regards to sexual orientation, filing a brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express that said: “The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discriminationIt does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

It’s pretty fucked up, not to mention disingenuous, to say that federal LGBTQ workplace protections should be left to Congress. Lawmakers have been trying to pass inclusive antidiscrimination legislation for decades, most recently with the Equality Act, to no avail. These laws do exist at the state level, but only in about 40% of the country and cover only about half of all queer and trans Americans. Plus, it’s a stance that ignores history, like the judicial precedents set by cases in the ‘70s and ‘80s like DeSantis v. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. or Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, Inc.

“We are confident that the courts will see this flip in position for what it isan anti-LGBT political pronouncement that finds no support in the law,” Lambda Legal Director of Strategy Sharon McGowan told Reuters.


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