Attorney General Jeff Sessions Just Made It A Lot Easier To Fire A Transgender Employee

"Jeff Sessions can't be trusted to protect us or our civil rights."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just reversed an Obama-era policy protecting transgender employees from workplace discrimination

Previously the Department of Justice considered gender identity a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But in a memo yesterday, Sessions indicated that was no longer the case. He also clarified that was the DoJ’s position “in all pending and future cases, except where controlling lower-court precedent dictates otherwise, in which event the issue should be preserved for potential future review.”

Win McNamee/Getty Images

“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women,” reads the memo, obtained by Buzzfeed. “But does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status. Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se. This is a conclusion of law, not policy.”

“As a law enforcement agency,” he added, “the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”

He insisted the Justice Department would continue to affirm “the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view.”

Critics site the reversal as part of the Trump administration’s ongoing campaign against LGBT people—including reinstating the ban on trans people in the military and filing a rare brief supporting a Christian baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

“By reinterpreting our employment laws to try to stop protecting transgender people from discrimination, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions have revealed their real goal,” said DNC spokesperson Joel Kasnetz in a statement. “Turn[ing] the clock back to a time when life was even more difficult for LGBTQ people, transgender individuals in particular.” Kasnetz added that Sessions “can’t be trusted to protect us or our civil rights.”

“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,” said National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling. “The Attorney General does not get to make law, but he should at least read it.”

Keisling promised “we’ll see him in court.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.