In the Justice Department’s latest act of aggression against transgender Americans, Attorney General Jeff Sessions quietly reversed a policy that included trans people in the anti-discrimination protections that the landmark Civil Rights Act gives people at work.
In the directive, which was first obtained by BuzzFeed and CNN, Sessions said that in his view, Title VII of the act’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex “encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
He also wrote that although there are protections against discrimination against trans people written into federal law, Title VII does not specifically bar discrimination because of a person’s gender identity, an exceedingly narrow interpretation Sessions said “is a conclusion of law, not policy.”
The attorney general also indicated that the Justice Department will apply this standard in all pending and future cases, which could have wide-ranging negative effects for trans people looking for justice from the courts.
During the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a December 2014 policy memo that he interpreted Title VII as explicitly including “discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”
Sharon McGowan, an attorney for the LGBTQ rights advocacy group Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed that Sessions’ interpretation of Title VII amounts to the DOJ “getting back in the business of making anti-transgender law in court.”
On Twitter, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted that Sessions’ directive extends his Justice Department’s anti-LGBTQ agenda:
It’s also far from the first effort by this Justice Department to unilaterally roll back protections for LGBTQ people. One of Sessions’ first actions in the role as the country’s top lawyer was to launch an offensive in the conservative bathroom wars, rolling back Obama-era protections for trans kids to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. And just last week, DOJ lawyers argued in a federal appeals court that Title VII does not protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination at work.