Jeff Sessions Rescinded Federal Protections for Transgender Employees

Jeff Sessions Rescinded Federal Protections for Transgender Employees

On Oct. 5, an internal DOJ memo revealed that Sessions had reversed a policy from the Obama administration that had protected transgender employees under the 1964 Civil Rights Act's Title VII, which protects workers from being discriminated based on their sex, BuzzFeed News reports.

As Attorney General, Sessions has wide latitude to interpret federal laws and decide how they should be enforced.

Working with this interpretation, Title VII also bans discrimination against transgender employees because they are transgender. For example, both Attorney General Holder and President Barack Obama came to the conclusion that DOMA, the 1996 law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples, was unconstitutional. It means that the government will no longer back their claims in court, and it will affect how hundreds of attorneys and investigators for the federal government respond to civil rights complaints from transgender people.

"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". "As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress", he wrote.

"I have determined that the best reading of Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status".

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Title VII of the landmark 1964 federal law states that employers can not discriminate against someone "because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin".

Gender identity is different from sexual orientation.

Sharon McGowan, former lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and attorney for LGBT group Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News that Sessions' "law, not policy" theory is "ironic" due to the fact that it's ignoring the developments federal courts have made over the last several years.

"The Department of Justice can not expand the law beyond what Congress has provided", DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement. And last week, the department argued in court that Title VII doesn't protect a gay worker from discrimination, showing that Sessions will take his view on Title VII into private employment disputes. 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 hard for LGBTQ people-transgender individuals, in particular".

Sessions said that interpretation went beyond what Congress intended.