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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 26, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 43
Trump administration declares war on Trans Americans
Section One
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Trump administration declares war on Trans Americans

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer In a series of actions, the Trump administration has declared war on Transgender Americans.

On October 24, Trump's Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief with the US Supreme Court claiming that it is legal for businesses to fire employees based on their gender identity.

The DOJ brief reverses the finding of President Obama's DOJ - and several federal courts - that the prohibition against discrimination based on sex in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also protects Trans people.

Trump's DOJ filed the document in the case of Aimee Stephens, a Michigan funeral home employee who was fired when her employer found that she is Transgender. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued on Stephens' behalf, basing its case on the Obama-era reading of Title VII.

Stephens' suit was upheld by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals but is now pending with the Supreme Court.

However, the DOJ - now under the control of Trump appointees - has the authority to represent federal law before the high court, and the Trump DOJ informed the court that the 6th Circuit was wrong. The high court should make a determination whether the word 'sex' in federal law covers gender identity, the DOJ filing said.

The HRC lost no time in condemning the Trump administration's position.

'Time and time again, federal circuit courts have ruled that discriminating against an individual based on their gender identity is form of sex discrimination - which is prohibited under a wide range of federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,' said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.

'The Trump-Pence administration is continuing down a destructive path that will put transgender people at further risk of discrimination and violence. For the Department of Justice to conveniently ignore significant legal precedent is deeply disturbing.'

Defining Trans people out of existence
While the Supreme Court considers the DOJ brief, the Trump administration is working on new administrative rules that would legally define Trans people out of existence.

On October 21 the New York Times published a leaked DOJ memo that could put an end to legal protections for Trans people, and would put an end to lawsuits like that of Aimee Stephens.

The memo seeks to define the word 'sex' in federal law in such a way that gender identity is explicitly excluded.

'Sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,' the memo says.

'The sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.'

The standard set by the Trump administration memo - basing gender on genetic evidence and/or genitalia identified at birth - represents the most extreme standard put forward by anti-LGBT forces. It would effectively define even post-op Trans people by the gender assigned them at brith.

'This is an attack on the very lives and existence of Transgender people,' James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

'It is painful, it is hateful, and it will not go unchallenged,' he added. 'Transgender people have the right to not only exist but to fully participate in public life. Transgender people are real and transgender lives have meaning.

'If the Trump administration moves forward with these hateful and hurtful policies, they will once again be met with opposition in courts and in communities. More and more courts are seeing that policies targeting transgender people have no place in our country. The ACLU will fight back against any efforts to use transgender people as political pawns and continue to seek full equality for transgender and nonbinary people.'

Anti-Trans head of DOJ Civil Rights Division On the same day that the Times published the anti-Trans memo, the US Senate - on a largely party-line 50-to-47 vote - confirmed Trump nominee Eric Dreiband to head the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.

Dreiband represented the University of North Carolina in a lawsuit over the school's decision to enforce HB2, which restricted restroom access for Trans people and banned local governments from passing LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances.

He also defended RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and Bloomberg in discrimination cases, and represented clients looking for religious exemptions to the law.

'Whoever leads the 'crown jewel' of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation's civil rights laws,' said Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division under Barack Obama.

'They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.'

Lambda Legal pointed to the division's role in defending civil rights as a reason to be concerned about Dreiband.

'Throughout its 60-year history, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has been a stalwart defender of civil rights in employment, education, housing, voting, and many other aspects of life,' said Lambda Legal's Sharon McGowan, who added that Dreiband was not 'a strong leader with a proven track record of defending civil rights.'

The NAACP said that Dreiband was 'exactly the wrong choice' to lead the office.

'The evidence is clear,' NAACP board chair Leon W. Russell said in a statement. 'For the past 20 years, Dreiband has been on the wrong side of issues pertaining to housing, hate crimes, and the many other critical areas that the Civil Rights Division oversees as part of its core mission.'

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has made protecting religious liberty a priority at the expense of LGBTQ equality.

Earlier this year, Sessions announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to help fight against anti-discrimination efforts.

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