AG Sessions Has Reversed Policy Protecting Transgender People From Workplace Discrimination

click to enlarge Attorney General Jeff Sessions - SHUTTERSTOCK
Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Update 4 p.m. — In a statement to the Current, Mayor Ron Nirenberg reacted to Sessions' decision, saying "No person should be discriminated against in the workplace, or anywhere, because of gender identity, and it is disappointing to see Jeff Sessions turn his back on protecting the civil rights of Americans."
Original post

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided that transgender Americans will no longer be protected against employee discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to a memo obtained by Buzzfeed News.

The move comes three years after then-Attorney General Eric Holder granted anti-discrimination protections to trans individuals in a memo announcing trans discrimination would be covered under “sex discrimination” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the new memo, sent to Department of Justice heads and U.S. attorneys, Sessions writes: “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.” Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that specifically bars employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has targeted rights of transgender individuals.

In February, amidst the Texas Legislature’s contentious debate over the “bathroom bill,” President Donald Trump rescinded protections for transgender students set in place by the Obama administration, which had allowed transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Then, in July, Trump tweeted, “Please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” By August 25, Trump’s tweet had materialized into action, when he signed off on a directive banning transgender individuals from enlisting.

It’s unclear how Sessions’ move will affect non-discrimination ordinances already in place in city and state governments — like the ordinance updated by San Antonio City Council in 2013 to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to city code. Although the ordinance doesn’t bar employee discrimination in privately-owned businesses— an issue Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said he hopes to tackle— it does protect city employees from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Over the last year, San Antonians have actively demanded change for LGBT residents, starting with the election of Nirenberg, who calls himself an LGBT ally. He's a stark contrast from the city’s previous mayor, Ivy Taylor, who notoriously avoided acknowledging the city’s LGBT community.

In August, Ruby Polanco, a high school senior at Young Women’s Leadership Academy, launched the petition that paved the way for the San Antonio Independent School District to add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to their existing non-discrimination ordinance.

Following Sessions’ decision, Lambda Legal—the largest legal organization in the country focused on LGBT rights— tweeted a statement from Dru Lavasseur, its Transgender Rights Project Director.

“Once again, the Department of Justice is going after the most vulnerable members of our community,” Lavasseur wrote. “Transgender people: We have your backs— and so does the law— no matter how many anti-trans memos Jeff Sessions issues.”

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