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Trans victims of workplace bias find relief in historic decisions

First time EEOC has investigated and ruled for a trans employee

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Mia Macy, gay news, Washington Blade
Mia Macy, gay news, Washington Blade

The Justice Department has awarded Mia Macy relief on the basis that she was discriminated against by ATF because she’s transgender. (Screen capture from a Center for American Progress video).

Transgender victims of workplace discrimination are for the first time finding restitution in a pair of decisions handed down from the federal government finding anti-trans job bias at two institutions — one a federal contractor, the other an arm of the U.S. government.

The two decisions — first reported by Buzzfeed — are the result of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is charged with enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, finding last year in a historic, unanimous decision transgender workplace discrimination amounts to gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

One of the decisions is the culmination of litigation in that very case, known as Macy v. Holder, was initiated by the Transgender Law Center after the plaintiff was told she wouldn’t receive a job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’s crime laboratory in Walnut Creek, Calif., after she announced she would transition from male to female.

On July 8, the Department of Justice — to which the case was remanded after the EEOC made its decision last year — issued a final decision finding Macy indeed faced discrimination when she applied for the position and awarding her relief.

“[T]his office finds that the ATF discriminated against complainant based on her transgender status, and thus her sex, when it stopped complainant’s further participation in the hiring process for the NIBIN Ballistics Forensics Technician Laboratory position,” the decision states.

After applying for the job, Macy was told in January 2011 that she would receive a position at the laboratory. But after she disclosed in March 2011 she would transition from male to female, the contractor informed Macy the position was cut. Later, she was told someone else was awarded the job.

The 51-page decision — which was signed by Complaint Adjudication Officer Mark Gross and Complaint Adjudication Office Attorney Carl Taylor — lays out several terms for relief in the Macy case.

First, the Justice Department says ATF within 60 days of the decision must offer Macy that job she was seeking at the Walnut Creek factory and award her back pay and benefits — with interest — for the period between April 2011 to January 2012.

Additionally, the Justice Department says ATF must take corrective action to ensure future discrimination never occurs again; award Macy compensatory damages for any injuries she may have received; refund Macy her attorney’s fees; and post a notice within 30 days consistent with employment law.

In the other case, another transgender victim of workplace discrimination this week reached a settlement in a case filed against a Maryland federal contractor, according to the LGBT groups Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiff in the case.

Little information is public about this case because the groups agreed as part of the settlement to withhold the amount won in damages, the name of the plaintiff and the name of the federal contractor.

However, the groups did disclose the nature of the discrimination the victim suffered, which included physical and verbal harassment over a two-year period and name-calling such as being called “tranny,” “drag queen” and “faggot.”  According to the groups, the case moved forward after the EEOC reviewed the case and, in September 2012, issued a letter finding there was reasonable cause to believe the contractor engaged in transgender discrimination.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, applauded EEOC for conducting a thorough examination that led to the victory for the alleged victim of transgender workplace discrimination.

“Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee,” Almeida said. “This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.”

Since the Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn’t law and Maryland has no statewide protections against anti-transgender discrimination, Title VII was the only way for the plaintiff in the case to seek legal restitution in response to the discrimination she faced. If President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace among federal contractors, that could have provided another source of relief, but the White House continues to withhold that directive.

Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, said the case demonstrates more action is needed at the federal level to protect workers from anti-LGBT discrimination.

“We need action by the 113th Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and even more immediately, President Obama should sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination by companies that profit from federal contracts,” Nevins said. “That executive order should have broad support across the political spectrum, since federal dollars should neither fund discrimination nor go to employers whose personnel and productivity suffer because discrimination and harassment are tolerated.”

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Congress

Garcia slams effort to ban drag shows as GOP passes NDAA with anti-LGBTQ riders

Equality Caucus denounces anti-LGBTQ amendments

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U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) during the debate on Thursday over the National Defense Authorization Act (Screen capture via C-Span)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) slammed Republican U.S. Rep. Josh Brecheen’s (Okla.) effort to ban drag shows on American military bases during a debate over the annual National Defense Authorization Act spending bill on Thursday.

The appropriations package, which contains five anti-LGBTQ riders pushed by House GOP members, was passed on Friday.

“We know there are a lot of threats to the health and well-being of our service members and their families: poisoned water, toxic mold in military housing, PTSD, and suicide,” said Garcia, who is gay and a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“So I’m stunned to see that the Republican idea to protect our troops is to ban drag shows,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, my Republican colleagues want us to believe that ‘these gays are trying to murder us.’ They want us to believe that drag is harmful, or immoral and wrong. This is ridiculous.”

“We can document and celebrate drag shows on military bases since the late 1800s, and through both world wars,” Garcia continued. “The USO and the Red Cross supported drag during World War II. That’s right: the Army that defeated Hitler and saved the world included drag queens.” 

“Ronald Regan starred in a movie called ‘This Is the Army!’ — a movie about World War II that featured four drag performances,” he said. “And he’s not the only Republican president who knew that drag can be fun and sometimes silly.”

Garcia displayed a photo of former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump alongside former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was dressed in drag.

“Mr. Speaker,” the congressman said, “drag is Art. Drag is Culture. Drag is Creativity. Drag is Comedy. And no, drag is Not a Crime. It’s not pornography. The real obscenity is when one of our colleagues, the gentlewoman from Georgia, shows literal posters of revenge porn in our Oversight Committee! If we want to end porn in government facilities, let’s ban that.”

In a statement on Friday, the Equality Caucus called out House Republicans’ politicization of the military appropriations bill.

“Like last year, House Republicans voted to add poison pill, anti-LGBTQI+ provisions to the NDAA that discriminate against our LGTBQI+ servicemembers and their families,” said Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) “The Equality Caucus remains committed to preventing these discriminatory provisions from becoming law.”

Along with Brecheen’s drag show ban, the caucus highlighted four of these riders from this year’s NDAA:

  • Amendment 46 by U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), which would “prohibit funds for the Department of Defense Education Activity from being used to purchase, maintain, or display in a school library or classroom books that include transgender and intersex characters or touch on topics related to gender identity or variations in sex characteristics,”
  • Amendment 49 by U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), which would “ban Pride flags from any workplace, common access area, or public area of the Department of Defense,” and
  • Amendments 52 and 53 by U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Ralph Norman (S.C.), which would, respectively, “ban TRICARE from covering and furnishing gender-affirming surgeries and hormone treatments,” and “prohibit the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) from covering or providing referrals for “gender transition procedures”—including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries—for servicemembers’ dependent minor children.”
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Congress

Merkley, joined by Advocates for Trans Equality, makes Equality Act push

Ore. senator said ‘our rights and freedoms are on the ballot this year’

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U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) speaks at the Senate Swamp on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Christopher Kane)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) called for passage of the Equality Act during a press conference on Wednesday alongside Advocates for Trans Equality, who were convened on Capitol Hill for the Trans Day of Empowerment lobby day.

Instead of freedom and the opportunity to participate fully in society, the senator said, “We see hatred, we see harassment, we see homelessness, we see discrimination, and bigotry, and violence, we see unemployment, we even see state-sanctioned attempts to outlaw the very identity of our transgender members of our community.”

“Across America in 2024, in our state legislatures there have been 500 bills drafted to constrain the opportunity for transgender Americans,” Merkley said. “They take on school curriculum, or they ban gender affirming care or otherwise seek to constrain the opportunity to participate in society, by our transgender individuals, in so many different ways.”

“This is wrong,” he said. “This is unacceptable. And we need to therefore pass the Equality Act here in the halls of Congress.”

Merkley, who introduced the latest iteration of the bill in the Senate, noted the legislation would “end discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, in housing, in public accommodations, in mortgages, in financial transactions, in jury duty — every facet of American society.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who is gay and a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, is leading the House version of the bill.

However, Merkley said, “our partners on the right side of the aisle have abandoned us. So, the responsibility to pass the Equality Act falls firmly on the Democratic Party.”

The senator called for an end to the Senate filibuster as a means of passing important legislation like the Equality Act.

Separately, in a statement to the Washington Blade, Merkley said, “Voting is the heart of our democracy. As Americans cast their ballots this fall, they have the chance to decide major issues facing our nation — from LGBTQ+ rights to reproductive freedom to so much more.”

“Democracy doesn’t exist unless every eligible voter has equal opportunity to make their voice heard,” he said. “As attacks on our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors continue in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and in our communities, we must all speak out and vote against this rising hate.”

The senator added, “Our rights and freedoms are on the ballot this year, and I won’t stop fighting until every American can live safely and freely as their authentic self.”

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Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Biden-Harris campaign debuts ads targeting LGBTQ voters

Ads to begin running Tuesday

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Pride month ad (Photo courtesy of the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign)

The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign will debut new ads on Tuesday targeting LGBTQ voters in battleground states for Pride Month ahead of November’s election.

“These ads will be featured across national and battleground LGBTQ+ media outlets, and will run throughout the month,” the campaign explained in a press release.

The aim is to “uplift” Biden’s record as “the most pro-LGBTQ+ president in history” while also highlighting “Donald Trump’s history of attacking their rights and his plans to go further.”

One ad that was previewed exclusively by the Washington Blade reads, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are fighting for the LGBTQ community!” with a photo of the president and vice president.

Another, formatted for social media, features a photo of Pride flags atop a quote from the “PBS NewsHour”: “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been outlining what he plans to do if elected in November. That includes rolling back the rights of millions of LGBTQ+ people. It’s part of a wider playbook to undo many civil rights advances for minority groups.”

“This Pride is an important time to remember the progress we’ve made for our community under President Biden, and the stakes of this election for LGBTQ+ Americans as Trump proudly runs to strip us of our rights,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Spokesperson Kevin Munoz, who is gay.

“From threatening IVF treatments to threatening LGBTQ+ marriages, Trump’s Project 2025 agenda would rip away our rights, and sow needless hate and division for Trump’s political gain,” he said. “LGBTQ+ Americans deserve to hear from us about these stakes, and this buy shows we will continue to show up and make our case to them in this election.”

The ad blitz on Tuesday comes after the campaign’s announcement of a paid media and organizing push for Pride month, which includes sizable investments in courting LGBTQ voters in battleground states.

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