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In Reversal of Obama-Era Policy, AG Sessions Says Employment Protections Do Not Cover Transgender Individuals

Attorney General Jeff Sessions - Announces End of DACA

The Trump administration has quietly removed another civil rights protection from transgender Americans. This continues the administration’s record of removing protections for minorities championed by Obama administration’s justice department.

Sessions announced the reversal of a 2014 decision by Eric Holder, the former attorney general under President Barack Obama, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covered transgender Americans. The decision prohibited any form of discrimination based on sex and stopped employers from taking any actions based on a person’s gender identity.

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Although Title VII provides various protections to transgender individuals, it does not specifically mention transgender individuals since it was written in 1964 when it wasn’t an issue. In a memorandum, Sessions said “Sex’ is ordinarily defined to mean biologically male or female.”

Justice Department spokesman Devin O”Malley said Thursday “The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. 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,” she continued.

“It’s another example of how, under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is no longer in the justice business,” said Sharon McGowan, director of strategy for Lambda Legal, a civil rights group.

Sessions repeatedly voted against laws designed to protect minorities especially LGBTQ individuals, while in the U.S. Senate. He voted against a 2009 law that extended hate crimes protections to sexual orientation, but he said Thursday the justice department will “vigorously” prosecute crimes against LGBTQ individuals.

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women,” Sessions said in the memo, “but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”

“This is a conclusion of law, not policy,” Sessions added.

Not surprisingly LGBTQ rights groups said they consider the news an outright attack on the transgender community which has suffered many setbacks under the Trump administration.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said Sessions’ decision reflects the attorney generals’ ideology, not the law. Sessions is “working according to his own ideology and not actual justice,” Ellis said adding, he “joins President Trump and an administration who are stopping at nothing to strengthen institutional discrimination and walk back the hard-fought progress made by the LGBTQ community.”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) LGBT & HIV Project Director James Esseks said the decision was “another low point for a Department of Justice.”

“This Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions has time and time again made it clear that its explicit agenda is to attack and undermine the civil rights of our most vulnerable communities rather than standing up for them as they should be doing,” he wrote.

He said he remains “confident that the courts will continue to agree and will reject the politically driven decision by Attorney General Sessions.”

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In a series of tweets, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called the decision an “appalling assault.”

“It’s another example of how, under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is no longer in the justice business,” said Sharon McGowan, director of strategy for Lambda Legal, a civil rights group.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was scathing in her criticism. “From banning transgender service members to dismantling protections for transgender students, this administration has consistently and cruelly put prejudice and bigotry before the civil rights of the American people,” she said in a statement.



Associate Editor, The Liberal Advocate News




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