The Legal Regression of Equality: Featuring the U.S Workplace

Once a place of opportunity, refuge, and hope, the U.S under Donald Trump’s administration is being transformed into a dystopia for civil rights, the persecution directed pointedly at minority groups. Trump’s approval of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s open discrimination against transgender individuals serving in the military has served as a catalyst for regressive legislation. Men and women who have served the U.S., overcoming many trials and tribulations, are shockingly plundered by the barriers the country has put in place. To make matters worse, as of this October, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a three-year-old law enforced by the justice department that protects transgender workers from discrimination under federal law.

In a an alarming memo, Sessions wrote to the U.S attorney offices regarding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stating, ‘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.’ This new policy will have wide ranging effects, providing a significant regression in U.S civil rights. From barring transgender individuals from fighting in the military to discrimination in the workplace, the strength and political productiveness of the U.S is being injured. While Devin M. O’Malley, spokesman for the Trump administration, has attempted to push forward the idea that the changed policy is the ‘accurate’ interpretation of the civil rights laws, ostracisation and the deliberate intolerance of a group of peoples is not a justifiable action.

Image courtesy of Paul Sableman via Wikimedia Commons ©2017, some rights reserved

   Civil Rights are Non-Negotiable


To fully gauge the effects of this new policy it is necessary to understand the discrepancies between a fully protected cisgendered person – whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex – U.S government worker, and a transgender member of the workplace. A fully protected U.S government worker is entitled to a basic, state protected, minimum of rights. To begin, the Workplace Safety Act of 1970, states that all individuals are entitled to basic protected conditions and a guarded environment. Employers are held to a higher standard of state enforced laws, requiring the protection and observance of employees. Additionally, the Social Security Act of 1935 (HYPERLINK SOURCE) adds a financial protection in terms of monetary compensation. As incentive to work hard and stay committed to the U.S government, the government will in return continue to compensate an individual into their retirement. If protected workers fall ill or need a dire procedure, the government will pay for the medical care needed. While protected workers reap all of these benefits, transgender workers as of October 2017, are not guaranteed any of them. This regression in policy is alarming and pivotal, leaving the future unclear for transgender individuals living in the U.S.

The fight for change is one battle, but the fight to reestablish justice, to move back to a time of progress while drowning in the relapse of regression is unimaginable. Conflating a person’s identity, race, gender, or sexuality with their moral self-worth is not only deficient but dangerous in practice. As stated by Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, ‘The government’s response reads like pure fiction. Every day this reckless ban stays in place, our military strength is diminished and our country is less safe for it. We are optimistic the court will see through this smokescreen and halt the ban.’ As Levi champions, the U.S is only suffering from this new policy; no progress or ‘moral advancement’ has come from this decision. With the threat of international terrorism, and the violence of national shootings, it seems trivial and misguided to focus efforts on limiting the rights of an already discouraged and fearful nation. Rather than feed into this hate and discrimination, the administration would be wise to take action to combat violence and hate crimes occurring within the nation, rather than throwing fuel in the fire.

Many conservative Republicans have supported this new degrading policy on the premise of religious conviction and epistemic beliefs. To be clear, the government neither compensated nor assisted transgender members of the military or the government in their transition surgeries. This has been a private matter and therefore seemed illogical to bring into the evidential support for this law. However, there is current debate on the Hill and in Congress regarding whether Trump actually was advised by the Pentagon to make this new announcement. As stated by Congressman Donald McEachin (D-VA),  ‘We seek information to discover the proof of where and when the Pentagon advised the President that this was the best idea for our country. If there is proof then we can evaluate that, if there is no proof then the President lied to the American people once again.

Discrimination and isolation cannot be accepted as our reality. It is the duty of not just all Americans (transgender and others inclusively), but all global members to stand up to this outburst of political bullying on the premise of a skewed moral compass. Martin Niemoller states, ‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’ If we do not address wrongful actions, we ourselves may fall victim to this hate. It is crucial we take action today, in order to see a change in tomorrow.