Progress had been made over the past years as to transgender recognition and rights. Last week was a step back. The NY Times reported with an article headline “In Shift, Justice Dept.Says Law Doesn’t Bar Transgender Discrimination”.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday October 5, ordered the Justice Department to take the position in court cases that transgender people are not protected by a civil rights law that bars workplace discrimination based on sex. Mr. Sessions’ move means the Justice Department will no longer side with transgender plaintiffs in workplace discrimination lawsuits invoking the Civil Rights Act. It will either stay on the sidelines or tell courts that the law should not be interpreted as barring discrimination by the employers.
|MAY 9, 2016
The previous Attorney General, Loretta Lynch had spoken in favor of transgender rights when she sued her home state for discriminating against transgender people. Lynch, a native North Carolinian and the first black woman to run the Justice Department, elevated the profile of her agency’s clash with North Carolina over its new bathroom law by placing it in the context of America’s Jim Crow era.
Lynch directly addressed North Carolina residents during a well-publicizednews conference announcing the lawsuit:
Instead of turning away from our neighbors, friends and colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. Let us reflect on the obvious but neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good and never works in hindsight.
All that Attorney General Lynch did to help us is now being undone. Mr. Sessions’s policy directive was the latest in a series of steps the Justice Department has taken since he became Attorney General to curtail the reach of civil rights laws. According to James D. Esseks, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, “It’s striking to see the Justice Department argue again and again to take civil rights protections away from people,”
In a two-page memo to all United States attorneys and other top officials, Mr. Sessions revoked the previous Attorney General, Mr. Holder’s directive. The word “sex” in the statute, Mr. Sessions said, means only “biologically male or female,” so the Civil Rights Act does not bar “discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
Until congress acts or the US Supreme Court mandates, we have lost Administration and Justice Department legal standing in the event of discriminated. A real step backward.