Jeff Sessions eliminated a policy protecting transgender employees from discrimination

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued the rollback of rights for transgender Americans this week, targeting their workplace protections.

In a memo that was obtained by Buzzfeed, Sessions reversed a federal policy which interpreted the 1964 civil rights law banning discrimination in the workplace as applying to transgender people.

The memo went out to U.S. attorneys Wednesday. “Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” it said. “This is a conclusion of law, not policy. As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress.”

In other words, Sessions said the law does not explicitly mention transgender individuals and therefore it does not provide them with anti-discrimination protections. The law governs discrimination based on sex but does not mention LGBTQ people specifically. Sessions noted in the memo that this will be the government’s position in current and future legal matters involving transgender workers.

“The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today’s action,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said of Sessions’ decision to reverse the policy.

The federal policy to apply the law to cases involving LGBTQ workers was put in place by former Attorney General under President Obama Eric Holder in 2014. The decision came after numerous federal courts ruled similarly on a growing number of cases.

Sessions tried to defend his position by saying, “Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis of gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII to provide different or additional protections.”