As It Happens

Kaci’s Corner – Dismantling LGBTQ Employment

On the same day President Trump tweeted that Transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the military, despite the estimated 11,000 members already defending this country through active duty and the reserves, the Department of Justice presented an amicus brief arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In what many consider to attempt to divert attention from the significant issues within the White House, such as Trump’s dealings with the Russians and the Republican’s inability to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, attacks against LGBTQ lives are once again being used to bolster support for conservatives.
It seems pretty clear that the Trump Administration is doing all that it can to dismantle protections the LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly to achieve over the last few decades, We cannot stand by and let them continue to expose our community to harmful discrimination.
Under consideration is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination through a reading that discrimination because of sex also covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice is arguing that it does not and that every Congress since 1974 has declined to add sexual orientation to Title VII and thus should not be read into the law without Congressional action, despite the significant shift in LGBTQ support acknowledged by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Technically, this move by the DOJ is part of a long standing tension between conservatives and liberals over how to create change. Liberals will often cite that the law rarely moves quickly enough to catch up to cultural shifts, such as the overwhelming support across the country for LGBTQ people. To address the gaps in laws created prior to these shifts, liberal lawmakers will interpret protections. More conservative thinkers insist that unless the words are included specifically, the laws need to be amended through the legislative process, not through the courts.
Under the Obama administration, Title VII was interpreted to include the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. While it did not formally bind the federal courts, it is important to note that in such situations, courts will often defer to federal agencies such as the DOJ when interpreting such laws. Not only is Sessions sending a message that the DOJ is against employment protections for LGBTQ people, he is also making clear that his department cannot be looked to as an ally of the community.
Had there been an administration that supported LGBTQ communities, this latest attack on our rights would not be at hand, In exposing LGBTQ individuals to discrimination. Our communities are once again in a position to have to fight for our lives, knowing that as the struggle ramps up, not only with no support but with the government doing the attacking.
In the end, this is a leadership issue, not a Transgender issue.
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