The U.S. Department of Justice has walked back a memo issued under President Barack Obama that extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender workers, according to documents obtained by Buzzfeed News.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly sent a letter to U.S. attorneys saying the Justice Department will no longer interpret the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII section as protecting transgender workers from discrimination based on their gender identity.
“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” Sessions reportedly wrote.
The 1964 law bans discrimination in the workplace, and in 2014 the Obama administration joined the growing chorus of LGBT activists who said it also should cover the discrimination claims of transgender people, according to Vox.
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"I have determined that the best reading of Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status," Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in 2014, according to Buzzfeed.
But Sessions reportedly wrote Wednesday that the law should be enforced as Congress wrote it — and not how some choose to interpret it — adding that it never explicitly protects transgender people.
Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, told Reuters that Sessions had to step in after the last administration extended the protections of the law beyond what was constitutional.
“Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action,” he said.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.