HRC Holds Briefing on Discrimination Against LGBT People for Congressional Leaders

Jordan Dashow

Yesterday, HRC and the LGBT Equality Caucus on Capitol Hill hosted a congressional staff briefing to outline recent decisions from Federal courts and interpretations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding discrimination against LGBT people as unlawful sex discrimination under existing law.  

The EEOC’s Commissioner Chai Feldblum provided an overview of key EEOC cases. In Macy v. Holder, the EEOC ruled that transgender discrimination is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination. In Baldwin v. Department of Transportation, the EEOC ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited under Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination.

Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, spoke about the growing number of federal agencies that are adopting these interpretations in their regulations. By doing so, they are making it clear that gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination are prohibited under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination. HRC Senior Legislative Counsel Robin Maril noted that many agencies have adopted the EEOC’s interpretation in Macy v. Holder. However, a number have been slow or are reluctant to adopt the Commission’s ruling in Baldwin pertaining to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While all the speakers applauded the Obama Administration’s adoption of the EEOC’s decision in Macy, they also agreed that there was more to do. It is imperative that pending federal rules, including the regulation implementing the non-discrimination provisions (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act, adopt the interpretation of sexual orientation discrimination as unlawful sex discrimination, as illustrated in the EEOC’s opinion in Baldwin. The speakers also agreed that it is crucial that Congress pass consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The Equality Act would provide these protections across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.  

Under President Obama’s leadership, the Administration has proactively instituted many far-reaching administrative and regulatory policy changes that have dramatically improved the lives of LGBT people in all 50 states and around the world.

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