Employers in America can now legally discriminate against transgender individuals. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reached a formal determination that the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn't apply to transgender Americans in an October 4 memo sent out to all federal prosecutors. The American group most burdened with HIV can now get axed because of their identity.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is what protects Americans against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion sex and national origin. Its scope and implications are oft-disputed. The fabric of America, some would argue, revolves around civil protections that many Americans take for granted. "Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status," the memo stated.
Many Americans have become polarized on their views of what constitutes gender identity. In 2014, under the Obama administration, former Attorney General issued a press release that clarified to all Americans that civil rights protections extend to transgender individuals. But on August 25, President Donald Trump signed a directive banning transgender military recruits, signaling the first blow to the transgender community.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions originally targeted Title VII's protections on all LGBT Americans in a July 26 amicus brief that was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Sessions also withdrew Obama-era guidance from the Justice Department to protect bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools.
The message is clear—the Justice Department's intent to strip away any Obama-era right that has been extended to transgender individuals. It's a baby step, some speculate, toward going after other LGBT rights.
In 2010, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was terminated from his job because he is gay. Even though the Department of Justice wasn't a party in the case, it decided to weigh in anyways.The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express may eventually head to the Supreme Court.
American leaders offered disapproval over the Justice Departments cold-hearted move. “Dark day when those tasked w/defending our civil rights open door to legalized discrimination [against] #trans Americans,” Rep. Joe Kennedy III tweeted. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, a champion and martyr of civil rights.
HIV is — invariably — intertwined with the transgender community. According to a 2013 report released by the Centers for Disease Control, 22 percent of transgender women live with HIV. In addition, out of the CDC's 3.3 million HIV testing events in 2013, transgender individuals were over three times more likely to have a new HIV diagnosis than the national average.
LGBT and HIV advocates were left speechless by October 4's announcement. "Today marks another low point for a Department of Justice which has been cruelly consistent in its hostility towards the LGBT community and in particular its inability to treat transgender people with basic dignity and respect," James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, told the Associated Press. The ACLU's AIDS Project has protected civil rights of oppressed LGBT and HIV positive individuals since 1986. The ACLU believes that transgender people should be legally protected by federal law, and found Session' original July 26 memo “appalling.”
America's history is stained with periods when businesses were free to discriminate against various ethnic groups and minorities. In the 19th century, signs could easily be found reading “Help Wanted: Irish Need Not Apply.” Propaganda in the media violently targeted the Irish under the guise of religious freedom. Years later, businesses blocked African Americans, Jews, the Japanese and many more groups from applying for jobs, regardless of their actual skills and qualifications. But that was supposed to all end on July 2, 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, this rhetoric exists today in other forms including the discrimination of transgender and all other LGBT Americans.
The Department of Justice's recent actions should alarm any LGBT American. The disturbing trend involves bakers and county workers who refuse service to LGBT patrons—Kim Davis style. If race doesn't make a man or women better than the other, than sexual identity shouldn't either.