Over 50 major U.S. companies have signed onto a statement condemning a proposed memo from the Trump administration erasing trans people in federal policy.
In an open letter released Thursday, companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Uber say they “oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex.”
“We, the undersigned businesses, stand with the millions of people in America who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex, and call for all such people to be treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves,” the signatories claim. “We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations.”
In a statement, Levi Strauss & Co. asserted its belief that “equality is not a right for some, but for all.”
“Executive actions and laws that allow discrimination erode our ability to foster vibrant, competitive workforces, which halts growth, creativity, and innovation,” claimed its chief human resources officer, Elizabeth Wood. “Our workplaces and communities must be diverse and welcoming for all people, regardless of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Fifty-six companies had signed onto the letter at the time of publication. More are expected to follow.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the dozens of global corporations who reaffirmed their support of trans rights represent over $2.4 trillion in revenue and employ more than 4.8 million workers.
“These major businesses are speaking out in one united voice to make clear they stand with the transgender community against the alarming effort by the Trump-Pence administration to gut enforcement of existing civil rights protections,” said Jay Brown, HRC’s acting senior vice president for programs, research, and training, in a statement.
“The overwhelming response to this latest attack on equality sends a powerful message of solidarity to the LGBTQ community,” Brown continued. “To be clear, no matter how hard this administration continues to try, we will not be erased.”
Out Leadership, which partnered with HRC on the statement, said it is “proud that the business community is raising its voice to defend some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
“As we see in our work all around the world, businesses are serving as a backstop for hard-earned progress toward LGBTQ equality—because it’s the right thing to do, and because they see their inclusive cultures as good investments worth protecting,” said its founder and principal, Todd Sears, in a press release.“We are grateful to all of our member companies who stood up immediately to call for this statement for their courage and leadership.”
In October, the New York Times reported the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is currently drafting a memo which would limit the federal definition of gender to “biological sex.” If implemented, HHS would define gender as unchangeable and determined at birth.
The policy proposal will reportedly be sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) by the end of the year. Should the DOJ approve the memo, it will be sent to the Departments of Education and Labor.
As INTO has previously reported, the decision stands to most directly impact protections for trans people under Title IX. As part of the Education Amendments of 1972, the decades-old civil rights legislation bans discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs.
In December 2014, the Justice Department announced it would expand its interpretation of “sex” under Title IX to include gender identity.
Without those protections in place, trans students would no longer be able to lobby the federal government to seek redress if they are denied entry to locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity or if teachers refuse to refer to them by the correct name and pronoun.
Despite these potential setbacks, signatories argued the White House cannot erase decades of progress made by trans people.
“In the last two decades, dozens of federal courts have affirmed the rights and identities of transgender people,” the businesses wrote in the letter. “Cognizant of growing medical and scientific consensus, courts have recognized that policies that force people into a binary gender definition determined by birth anatomy fail to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology.”
Last year, more than 100 companies signed onto support the 2017 Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ rights are not rolled back by the current administration. That bill would write sexual orientation and gender identity into federal civil rights legislation.
A key corporate supporter of that legislation, IBM again called upon Congress to sign the Equality Act into law.
“Treating all people fairly, equally and with respect is the very core of IBM’s values,” said Tia Silas, IBM’s vice president of diversity and inclusion. “We believe no one should be discriminated against for being who they are.”
“That’s why we’re proud to stand in support of the transgender and entire LGBTQ communities,” she continued in the statement, “and it’s why we will continue advocating for Congress to pass the Equality Act and ensure transgender individuals are treated equally under the law.”
This isn’t the first time the business community has come together to support LGBTQ rights in the face of attacks from government leaders.
When North Carolina forced through House Bill 2 in a 2016 legislative session, more than 200 corporations condemned the anti-trans “bathroom bill.” The National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) threatened to pull championship games from the state in protest, including moving the 2017 All-Star Games from Charlotte.
State lawmakers passed a controversial compromise bill to address the backlash. Had HB 2 remained in place, it would have cost the state $3.7 billion over the next 12 years.
It remains to be seen how the Trump administration will respond to the letter on its gender identity memo. The White House was unavailable for comment prior to press time, although this story will be updated should they release a statement.
In addition to HRC and Out Leadership, the letter was coordinated by 14 different LGBTQ community organizations. These advocacy groups include GLAAD, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), National LGBTQ Task Force, Out & Equal, PFLAG, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), and The Trevor Project.
Here’s the full list of companies who have joined the statement to date:
Adobe Systems Inc.
Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP)
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade
Cisco Systems Inc.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lush Handmade Cosmetics
MGM Resorts International
Ropes & Gray
Royal Bank of Canada
State Street Corporation
The Dow Chemical Company
Trillium Asset Management
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan