Title VII protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbid transgender discrimination in the workplace—or at least they did when Barack Obama was president. Now, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is claiming that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination does not include bias against transgender individuals. Instead, he says, it accounts for discrimination between “men and women.” In a memo to all U.S. attorneys and the heads of all federal agencies, obtained by Law360 on Thursday, Sessions wrote that while Title VII provides various protections for transgender individuals, the statute “does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
He went on to note that: “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.” However the move is contrary to the way the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been interpreting Title VII’s protections and ignores recent case law as some have pointed out.
Sessions’s Justice Department and the Trump Administration have been rolling back LGBT protections. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve barred trans soldiers from joining the military, reversed Obama-era rules that protected transgender children, filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting a Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, and filed a brief arguing that Title VII doesn’t protect gay workers from discrimination.