WASHINGTON (AP) — With two milestone developments in the federal government’s policy on gender issues, last week was heady for transgender people and advocates.
First, an impassioned Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the government was suing North Carolina for discriminating against transgender people. Later, federal officials issued guidance to public schools on accommodating transgender students.
But legal experts and advocates for the approximately 700,000 transgender people estimated to be living in the United States say last week’s headline-grabbing developments reflect a slowly-evolving change in the law over more than a decade toward increased protections for transgender people.
“The trend is clearly toward recognizing that sex discrimination law protects against gender identity discrimination,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University’s law school.
Over the next few years there will likely be more cases on that question, advocates on both sides agreed.
Courts must decide whether decades-old federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity. The federal government says yes, but two important federal laws barring discrimination are not explicit. The laws are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination by employers, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.