Sessions Dismantles Justice Department Pro-LGBT Policies Adopted During Obama Administration

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump posed as a friend of the LGBT community, waved a rainbow flag from the stage of a campaign rally, and proclaimed that as president he would be better for “the gays” than Hillary Clinton.  But as soon as he started announcing his cabinet appointments after the election, it became clear that the campaign posture would not be the position of a Trump Administration, and the selection of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General was the first evidence that this would be the case.

Signaling the change, Sessions collaborated with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing the Gavin Grimm case from the 4th Circuit, which could have led to a precedent that public schools getting federal funds not discriminate against students because of their gender identity under federal law.  Shortly before the scheduled oral argument, a joint DOE/DOJ memorandum was issued “withdrawing” the Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX, and the departments suggested to the court that the argument be cancelled and the case be sent back to the 4th Circuit, which had premised its ruling on deference to the Obama Administration’s interpretation of DOE regulations.  Following up, Sessions issued a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys and Heads of Department Components on October 4, titled “Revised Treatment of Transgender Employment Discrimination Claims Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” disavowing positions previously taken by DOJ as well as the independent agency charged with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

For the full story, access the November 2017 issue of LGBT Law Notes.