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Sex Discrimination Rules Updated to include Bias Based on Trans Status, Same-Sex Relationships
The National Center for Transgender Equality welcomes proposed regulations published today by the Department of Labor, which clarify that unlawful sex discrimination in the workplace extends to bias against transgender workers and workers in same-sex relationships. While this rule directly applies to federal contractors—who are already subject to explicit LGBT protections under a 2014 executive order—the rule confirms the increasingly broad legal consensus that sex discrimination laws protect all LGBT workers. Importantly, the proposed rule incorporates the essential principle that transgender workers must have equal access to workplace restrooms consistent with their identity.
“This regulatory update confirms what has been clear for some time: equal employment opportunity has to mean the ability to come to work as the person you really are,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy. “Most employers are already doing the right thing, but this clarification is critical for transgender workers who still face losing their job over simply need to go to the restroom.”
President Obama Acknowledges Humanity of Trans and Bisexual Americans in Historic State of the UnionJanuary 20, 2015
Tonight, President Barack Obama includes transgender and bisexual people in the State of the Union address in reference to American values and the defense of human dignity. This inclusion is unprecedented in any State of the Union address.
In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama said:
As Americans, we respect human dignity […] It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.
In response to President Obama’s inclusion of transgender and bisexual people, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said:
“It is very heartening that President Obama has chosen to speak up for transgender people in a State of the Union Speech about American values. While other years, he has focused on a laundry lists of policies, mention there would have been important. In those years when we were not mentioned in the State of the Union, the President was still leading the way in advancing policies that have improved and saved transgender lives. Of course, the advancement of those policies is so much more important than a mention in a speech. But make no mistake, the President of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal. It will empower trans people to stand taller and work harder to improve this country for all people. That he has also said bisexual for the first time in a state of the Union Address is very significant as well.”
“His mention of us makes us know that he meant us when he talked about Americans. When he spoke about children, he meant transgender children too. When he spoke about immigrants, he meant transgender immigrants too. When he talked about service members and veterans, he meant the transgender people too.”
Read the President’s complete remarks as prepared for delivery here.
Last night, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored Transparent with the Golden Globe award for “Best Television Series—Comedy or Musical” and honored Jeffrey Tambor with the Golden Globe award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series—Comedy or Musical.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) extend our congratulations to the cast and crew of Transparent, and to its creator, Jill Soloway. “Transparent captures the spirit of the life and struggle of one particular kind of transgender person,” said NCTE’s Alexandra Scott, and in so doing, they’ve provided a window into understanding our whole community. Their Golden Globes are well earned honors.”
This week the National Center for Transgender Equality joined more than 100 LGBT, immigration, and allied organizations in sending a letter urging President Obama to keep LGBT immigrants out of detention centers except in extraordinary circumstances. Other organizations joined the letter include the American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Immigration Law Center, National LGBTQ Task Force, and PFLAG National.
The letter highlights federal and state surveys finding that LGBT prisoners face rates of rape and sexual abuse behind bars at rates 10 to 13 times as high as other prisoners. It also highlights a federal report finding that of a sample of substantiated sexual assault cases in immigration detention, 1 in 5 victims was transgender.
The letter also tells the story of Johanna, a transgender woman who like many other LGBT immigrants fled life-threatening persecution because of her identity. Johanna fled to the US following a gang rape in El Salvador, only to be raped again in immigration detention. Conditions in detention were so bad for her that she abandoned her asylum claim and agreed to deportation, but soon returned. After a second detention and deportation, she was abducted from the airport in El Salvador and again gang-raped. Salvadoran policy told her her attackers should have killed her. After a third stint of months in immigration detention, Johanna won the right to stay in the US. Months in solitary confinement and reported deportations likely cost the government up to $50,000 and subjected her to repeated sexual assaults.
As recently as last month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies have recognized that certain groups of immigrants should generally not be placed in detention centers because of their vulnerability. In light of federal reports finding LGBT people are at extraordinary risk behind bars, DHS should make clear that LGBT immigrants are one of those groups. NCTE will continue to press DHS and the White House to ensure that no LGBT immigrant is needlessly placed at risk of assault behind bars.
Read the letter below.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) this week reported national statistics for the first time on sexual abuse of transgender people in US prisons and jails. BJS estimates there were over 3,200 transgender people in US prisons nationwide in 2011-12, of whom 39.9% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year by either another prisoner or staff. BJS also estimated there were over 1,700 transgender people in US jails in 2011-12, of whom 26.8% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year. Transgender prisoners were victimized at rates nearly ten times those for prisoners in general (4% in prisons and 3.2% in jails).
The findings are similar to previously released research, including a California study finding that of transgender women held in men’s prisons, 59% had ever been sexually assaulted by another prisoner. While BJS did not break down transgender statistics by gender or type of facility, most prisons and jails continue to house essentially all transgender women with men despite 2012 federal rules calling for individualized placements. Previously released statistics from the same surveys found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual prisoners also face very higher rates of sexual assault behind bars—though the transgender rates are the highest by far.
New York State today became the ninth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to apply its existing laws to prohibit discriminatory transgender exclusions in many health insurance plans. New York joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and DC, as well as the federal Medicare program in taking action over the last two years to eliminate these arbitrary exclusions.
Today’s letter from the New York State Department of Financial Services, addressed to all insurers in the state, declares that, “An issuer of a policy that includes coverage for mental health conditions may not exclude coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria.” Notably, New York relied on state and federal mental health parity laws to arrive at this conclusion, and becomes the second state (with Massachusetts) to reach this conclusion without an explicit gender identity nondiscrimination law applicable to insurance. Other states have interpreted nondiscrimination laws based on sex or gender identity, or general prohibitions on arbitrary or unfair insurance practices, ban trans exclusions.