Kicking A Lion

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Activists pin hopes on Obama banning transgender bias

Six months ago, a highly decorated retired Army colonel told Congress of instantly going from “hero to zero” in the eyes of a prospective employer when she disclosed that she was in the process of changing gender.

Since that hearing, Congress has done nothing to protect transgender workers, despite evidence of outrageous job discrimination.

But a federal judge has stepped in to say that the Library of Congress broke the law against sex discrimination by rescinding the job offer it had made before learning David Schroer was becoming Diane.

“The evidence establishes that the Library was enthusiastic about hiring David Schroer — until she disclosed her transsexuality,” James Robertson, a U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, ruled in September.

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“The Library revoked the offer when it learned that a man named David intended to become, legally, culturally, and physically, a woman named Diane. This was discrimination ‘because of … sex’,” the judge continued.

Schroer’s transition is being followed by another one in political Washington, of course. And the American Civil Liberties Union, which is handling her case, is hopeful that the new administration won’t fight the decision.

Already, the judge is preparing to order remedies, such as requiring the Library of Congress to hire Schroer and pay her back wages or monetary damages.

But the ruling, while a groundbreaking warning to other employers that they might be sued and held liable for similar discrimination, doesn’t automatically protect anyone beyond Schroer. In fact, federal judges disagree over whether federal sex discrimination laws cover transgender Americans.

A growing number of companies as well as 13 states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia have enacted transgender protections. But most transgender workers are on their own in a workplace or job interview.

The ACLU is heartened, though, that President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, in an historic first, includes “gender identity” in its nondiscrimination policy for appointment-level jobs in the next administration.

The legal group hopes, as president, Obama will take the next step — signing an executive order formally banning job discrimination based on gender identity within the federal civilian work force.

President Bill Clinton signed a similar order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in civil service jobs. The ACLU wants Obama to expand it to cover government contractors as well, both based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

That still, unfortunately, would leave transgender workers vulnerable at private companies.

So the ALCU and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups are urging the Democratic-led Congress and Obama to fulfill campaign promises by outlawing job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — whether by Uncle Sam or his private-sector sisters.

Schroer’s ongoing legal battle over a job to provide expert policy analysis to Congress on terrorism underscores the need for swift action next year.

As David, she gave her country 25 years, including 16 in Special Forces with 450 parachute jumps and combat experience in Panama and Haiti, followed by directing a 120-person classified Pentagon organization that tracked and targeted terrorists.

It’s only right that the government repay Diane — as well as other transgender Americans — with equal job opportunities.

–Deb Price

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Written by kickingalion

December 15, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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