US Attorney General Holder announced yesterday that the Department of Justice will take the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covering sex discrimination extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status when prosecuting government job discrimination cases.
Attorney General Holder issued a memo that his department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex excludes discrimination based on gender identity, reversing the Department of Justice’s previous position.
Title VII makes it unlawful for state and local employers to discriminate in the employment of an individual “because of such individual’s…sex,” among other protected characteristics.
‘This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,’ Holder said in a statement yesterday, announcing the change in policy.
‘This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.’
The Attorney General’s memo is designed to foster consistent treatment of claimants throughout the government and reduce confusion.
In addition to applying to the department’s civil obligations in defending federal interests, the memo clarifies the Civil Rights Division’s ability to file Title VII claims against state and local public employers on behalf of transgender individuals.
The Department of Justice does not have authority to file suit against private employers – though some US state and local jurisdictions have passed laws against discrimination against LGBTIs in private sector jobs.
The decision was welcomed by California Democratic Representative Mark Takano, who called the memo groundbreaking for the transgender community.
‘This memo issued by Attorney General Holder provides an amount of protection that has never been offered to the transgender community,’ Takano said.
‘By stating that gender identity and transgender status is a protected category under sex in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the DOJ is providing a clear policy on the protections for transgender people – protections that they have deserved as American citizens.’
However Takano said there was still more that needed to be done.
‘While this is undoubtedly a step forward, there are still far too many loopholes that allow discrimination,’ Takano said.
‘If we wish to provide full and explicit protections for the transgender community, Congress must pass a fully inclusive non-discrimination law. Only then will transgender Americans, as well as other members of the LGBT community, be given equal protection under the law.’