US Civil Rights Commission just destroyed Trump administration’s opposition to LGBTQ rights

Donald Trump
President Donald TrumpPhoto: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is urging Congress to pass legislation protecting LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination.

It released a report today titled “Working for Inclusion: Time for Congress to Enact Federal Legislation to Address Workplace Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans,” after studying the issue and the arguments for and against instituting legal protections.

It found that LGBTQ workers have “faced a long, serious, and pervasive history of official and unofficial employment discrimination by federal, state, and local governments and private employers,” according to a press release out with the report.

It notes that an “inconsistent and irreconcilable patchwork of state laws against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination and federal court decisions interpreting existing law” leaves the community vulnerable. Further, it is difficult to know the true extent of the problem, as federal data points are lacking.

Despite the fact that polls show a majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum support evaluating LGBTQ workers on the merits of their work alone, a whopping 28 states offer no protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Another two offer protections on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

As a result, in addition to calling on Congress to at long last pass legislation making it illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the commission has recommended including questions about LGBTQ status on the Census and in other federal surveys.

That has been a sticking point with the Trump administration, which has quietly removed questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity from a number of federal surveys.

It was considering keeping a question about LGBTQ identity off a marketing survey for the 2020 Census, but changed course after criticism from advisers.

“Federal agencies should issue or, where relevant, reaffirm specific guidance for federal and private employers outlining protections for LGBT employees, including specifically enumerating protections for transgender persons,” the commission adds.

The Trump administration has been on the other side of this issue, intervening in court cases to argue that it should be legal to fire people for being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also issued memos stating that the Department of Justice would begin giving added weight to those claiming their religious freedom gives them a license to discriminate, just so long as they cite their beliefs when doing so.

This isn’t the first time the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has publicly disagreed with the Trump administration.  In August, it announced its opposition to Trump’s transgender military ban.

“Living up to the American ideal of fairness and equity demands federal statutory protection for LGBT employees, actively and consistently enforced across the federal government and lived in employees’ workplace experience,” said U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chair Catherine E. Lhamon. “We call on Congress to act now to ensure that it leaves no gap in the fabric of federal civil rights protection for LGBT employees.”

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