Transgender community scores major legal protections

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The transgender equality movement has not only been about representation in the media and the arts, it’s also been about creating equal laws in our legal system for the transgender communities, which have been tragically underserved and disregarded by the law. However, the trans community scored a major win for equality this week when it was announced that the federal government extended antidiscrimination laws to the trans community.

According to the Washington Post, Eric Holder, the outgoing attorney general, sent out a memo that the Department of Justice has officially expanded its legal definition of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to include discrimination based on gender identity.

The revised Title VII law now prohibits workplace discrimination against transgender employees and enables the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to file claims against state and local public employers on behalf of transgender individuals if discrimination does occur.

“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 the statement sent to all DOJ components and U.S. attorneys. “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.”

On the downside, 32 states still lack antidiscrimination laws for the workplace and private companies can’t be penalized by the DOJ for such discrimination.

However, LGBT activists are hailing the revised law as a major step forward towards equality.

Harper Jean Toblin, director of policy for the Center for Transgender Equality, called it a “clear, strong statement” indicating that “this is now the legal position of the federal government, period.”

“This is in line with administration commitments to justice and fairness for LGBT people generally, and transgender people specifically,” Matt Wood, staff attorney at Transgender Law Center, told MSNBC.

We’re glad that the Obama administration is continuing to push for LGBT equality in this nation and we hope that more progressive legislation witll roll out both before and after Obama’s term ends. – nicholas robinson

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