The Trump administration often seems to be failing to fulfill any of its polarizing campaign promises, but underneath the controversy and the headlines, there are small victories that are worth noting.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions clarified in a memo that, despite previous Obama-era interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that sex and gender identity did not warrant civil rights protection.
Life Site News reports that Sessions wrote in the memo to the country’s federal prosecutors that on “all pending and future matters” his DOJ will interpret the Civil Rights Act as originally intended by Congress.
The original wording of the CRA criminalizes discrimination based on “sex”, which Sessions explains is clearly meant to mean “male or female”, not sexual preference or gender identity as the Obama administration had been interpreting it.
Sessions explained that in the historical context the word “sex” was used, the authors clearly referred to biological gender and not, as gay and transgender activists would have it, “discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
He went on to say that the Obama administration had overstepped their bounds by adding unintended meaning to this important civil rights precedence.
“I have determined,” announced Obama in 2014, “that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”
“The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley explains. “Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action.”
O’Mally was sure to clarify that the DOJ is nonetheless still committed to ensuring the civil rights of all American citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals,” he said, “and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
In his memo, Sessions was also sure to note that he in no way intended for the DOJ to support discrimination. “The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals,” he wrote.
“Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections,” he continued.
Regardless, the LGBTQ community is up in arms.
Sharon McGowan, the director of strategy for LGBTQ group Lambda Legal said, “No matter how many memos he issues, the law is on our side. And so are the courts increasingly.”
She is right about the courts, at least. Obama-era judges still sit in many courts across the country, and while it is reassuring to see Sessions limit the landmark CRA to the people it was originally meant to protect, there will no doubt still be many judges who interpret it the way Obama did.
It is still encouraging to see this from the DOJ though, well done Sessions!