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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 19
DOJ looks at federal civil rights protections for LGBT Americans
Section One
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DOJ looks at federal civil rights protections for LGBT Americans

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) believes that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects Transgender Americans, and it is 'looking at' whether the law also protects Lesbian, Gay, and Bi residents, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on a number of immutable characteristics, sex being one.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that that provision protects gender identity, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder agreed, bringing at least one of the letters of LGBT under federal civil rights protection.

Under Lynch, DOJ filed a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a Transgender high school student's claim regarding use of gender-appropriate restrooms. Lynch said the department is 'very gratified' that the court recently affirmed DOJ's position.

'To me, this is really an issue of equality and fundamental fairness and what kind of a society do we want to be,' Lynch told BuzzFeed.

'We decided over 200 years ago that we wanted to be an inclusive society, and we wanted to guarantee equal rights for all. For that to mean something, we have to be careful, we have to be vigilant, so that when people, for whatever reason, are either [made to] feel like they're on the outside - a particular group - or are placed on the outside, that that doesn't happen. And transgender issues are no different, to me, in that regard.'

Lynch said that DOJ's mission is to protect the vulnerable, like seniors, children, and human-trafficking victims.

'Our transgender family members and friends are also incredibly vulnerable to discrimination, in terms of the laws that we see, but also to abuse,' she added.

Lynch said DOJ had 'a tool to deal with that' in the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed in 2009.

'But then,' she added, 'this to me is all a part of the whole: If we're going to have the view that we're going to protect everyone in this society equally, we have to mean it.'

The EEOC has also taken the position that discrimination against sexual orientation is likewise sex-based discrimination, and therefore illegal under Title VII. Lynch said DOJ is developing a formal stand on that question as well.

'We're looking at that issue, also, and we'll definitely come to a conclusion soon as to what position to take,' she said. 'But I think that overall, the position - on a whole host of issues - should always be toward inclusion and equality.'

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