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DOJ Memo Falsely Claims Laws Don’t Protect Transgender Workers

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Ash Orr (they/he)

Sessions abandons transgender people and his responsibility to enforce the law

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo yesterday to Department of Justice attorneys, instructing them to take the legal position that federal law does not protect transgender workers from discrimination. This position contradicts nearly 20 years of federal case law from five federal courts of appeals and numerous federal district courts. The Sessions memo withdraws a December 2014 memorandum from then-Attorney General Eric Holder taking the opposite position.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said the following:

“The Trump/Pence Administration is determined to promote discrimination through a false view of the law that has been rejected again and again by the courts. According to Sessions, an employer is free to hang a ‘Transgender Need Not Apply’ sign in their window. Fortunately, he is dead wrong on the law. Neither President Trump nor Jeff Sessions can change the law, but they are determined to sow confusion and put their seal of approval on discrimination.

“The Attorney General does not get to make law, but he should at least read it. Simply: he is once again abdicating his responsibilities to enforce the law. Courts have repeatedly ruled that transgender people are protected by sex discrimination laws in employment, education, housing and healthcare. We’ll see him in court.”

The Sessions memo directly contradicts case law from the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the First, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and 11th Circuits, as well as from numerous district courts across the country. The memo instructs DOJ attorneys never to concede that federal laws protect transgender people, but instead to take the position that they have no protection “in all pending and future matters (except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential further review).”

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