In a memo to federal prosecutors today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that the 1964 Title VII civil rights law — which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex — does not apply to transgender or gender non-conforming people. The decision officially reverses an Obama-era policy that the law should be interpreted to include transgender workers.
"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," Sessions wrote in the memo, obtained by BuzzFeed.
Sessions directed the Department of Justice to take that stance in all current and future matters concerning Title VII. Yet, he also said that "this is a conclusion of law, not policy," and that “the Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals."
Yet, many activists responding to the news clearly feel that the Justice Department, and the Trump administration as a whole, hasn't been affirming the dignity of transgender people — and that, actually, this news is just the latest in a series of decisions from this administration that devalues transgender lives.
Soon after he took office, President Trump reversed another Obama-era policy protecting transgender students and allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in schools. And, in August, he tweeted and later put into motion a plan to ban transgender people from the military.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement shared with CNN that the memo from Sessions doesn't actually have any legal standing.
"According to Sessions, an employer is free to hang a 'Transgender Need Not Apply' sign in their window. Fortunately, he is dead wrong on the law," she wrote. "Courts have repeatedly ruled that transgender people are protected by sex discrimination laws in employment, education, housing and healthcare. We'll see him in court."
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