Civil rights law doesn't apply to transgender workers, says Justice Department memo

Posted October 06, 2017

"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", James Esseks, the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project director, said in a statement.

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.

Jeff Sessions says in his memo that this is about "law, not policy" but the courts clearly disagree. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and various federal courts have determined sex discrimination does, indeed, include gender identity and, therefore, transgender rights.

As Buzzfeed News' Dominic Holden first reported, Sessions on Wednesday rescinded that government policy.

"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", reads Sessions' directive, which BuzzFeed News obtained.

The US Department of Justice is taking the position that the federal law banning sex discrimination in the workplace does not apply to transgender employees.

"Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se", the memo continued. Part of it focuses on sending certain gun crimes to federal court, where they carry longer sentences in far-away prisons. This spring, the departments of justice and education rescinded the Obama-era guidance instructing schools to give trans students unfettered access to bathrooms matching their gender identities.

Devin O'Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, explained the decision to issue the memo, telling BuzzFeed News, "The Department of Justice can not expand the law beyond what Congress has provided".

"Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today's action", he said.

"The Department of Justice can not expand the law beyond what Congress has provided", O'Malley said.

For years now, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been tryijng to enshrine similar workplace protections based on gender identifity and sexual orientation in state human relations law, only to be batted back by troglodytic culture warriors in the General Assembly.

Transgender people face extraordinary discrimination and harassment every day. "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".