Newswire : Jeff Sessions reverses DOJ policy protecting transgender employees from discrimination

By Zack Ford, ThinkProgress

Discrimination based on gender identity will no longer be considered discrimination based on sex.

The Department of Justice will no longer argue that workplace protections on the basis of sex protect transgender people from discrimination. That’s according to a new memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions obtained by BuzzFeed Thursday.

The new policy reverses a policy put in place in 2014 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder. The fundamental question is whether denying someone employment based on their gender identity (i.e. being transgender) constitutes discrimination on the basis of that person’s “sex,” as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Holder held that trans people fall under that category, but Sessions has now reversed that and declared they no longer enjoy such protections.

“Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes, according to BuzzFeed. Under his view, the law only covers discrimination between “men and women.”

However, a 2008 case proves Sessions’ reasoning wrong: the judge in that case found that a trans woman had been discriminated against on the basis of sex because the Library of Congress denied her a job after learning she was transitioning. District Judge James Robertson explained that if an employer treated Christians and Jews fairly but discriminated against “converts” between the two religions, “that would be a clear case of discrimination ‘because of religion,’” so discrimination against a person for transitioning their sex should not be treated any differently.

Nevertheless, Sessions’ new policy now impacts what the DOJ will argue in future cases. This reflects the anti-LGBTQ positions the Trump administration has already taken in various other cases, including one in which a man claimed he was fired for being gay and another in which a Colorado baker refused service to a same-sex couple for religious reasons. It also adds to the litany of actions the Trump administration has taken specifically against transgender people, including rescinding protections for transgender students, banning transgender people from the military, and working to roll back health care protections for trans people.
Not recognizing a person’s gender identity as their lived sex is an inherent rejection of the legitimacy of that identity. Sessions nevertheless insists in the memo that he’s not anti-trans:
The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals. 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.

The DOJ decision stands in stark contrast to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent commission that has held that transgender employees are protected under Title VII since 2012. In a 2015 case, for example, the EEOC ruled in favor of a trans woman who claimed the Army had discriminated against her as a civilian employee by not letting her use the women’s restroom. The DOJ and EEOC also recently had an interesting stand-off in court when they took opposing positions on a case of anti-gay discrimination.

The Sessions memo could greatly undermine transgender people’s ability to fight discrimination in the workplace. Under Sessions’ leadership, the DOJ has shown willingness to chime in on cases in favor of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, so even if the EEOC is advocating for a trans person, the DOJ would still argue against them. There are still 30 states that offer no employment explicit protections on the basis of gender identity, so if trans victims of discrimination in those states can’t make their case based on protections because of “sex” under federal law, they may have no recourse whatsoever.

The recent U.S. Trans Survey found that 27 percent of trans people who’d applied for a job in the past year had been fired, denied a promotion, or not been hired due to anti-trans discrimination. The number is actually likely higher, as studies have shown that trans people may not even realize they’re being discriminated against in employment. The survey also found that trans people are three times as likely to be unemployed than the rest of the U.S. population.

Newswire : CBC Chairman’s letter to President Trump expresses ‘utter disgust’ with the way he handles race relations

 

By Hazel Trice Edney

cedricrichmond
 CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D – La)
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Fresh on the heels of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Caucus, CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) has sent a letter to President Donald Trump expressing “utter disgust” with the way Trump has handled race relations.
“I write today to express my utter disgust with your handling of race relations in America in general and, more specifically, your calculated, divisive response to nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice by professional football players, owners, coaches, and countless other patriots,” Richmond wrote in a Sept. 27th letter. “African Americans are just as patriotic as any other American. We have fought in every war from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to come home to a country that has yet to reconcile deep-seated issues of race, inequality, and injustice.”
Richmond was referring to Trump’s calling NFL players “Sons of B—–s” if they protest racial injustice by kneeling or what is commonly called “taking a knee” during the National Anthem. It was a form of protest started by Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who was not able to get drafted this season because of his controversial stance.
The letter continues, “As President of the United States, your use of profane, sexually derogatory language in addressing American citizens, or anyone for that matter, is unbecoming of the office you now hold. Moreover, your complete lack of understanding of or empathy for the very painful history and substantive policy concerns that move people like Colin Kaepernick to take a stand, or a knee, in the first place is a reminder of all the African American community has to lose under Read More your Administration. Nonetheless, as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), an organization with the well-deserved reputation as the Conscience of the Congress, I feel obligated to yet again attempt to educate you and your Administration about the many problems facing our communities and how you can work with us to improve them.”
Trump’s past racial insensitivities are well known, including his insisting – without apology – that then President Barack Obama was from Kenya instead of Hawaii. But in his inaugural address he promised to represent all of America and to bring unity. Ever since then, CBC leaders have tried to sensitize him to and educate him about the issues of racial inequality in America.
“As you may recall, I, along with senior leadership within the CBC, met with you on March 22, 2017. In that meeting, we presented you with a 125-page policy book, as well as a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, the Dean of the House, and myself,” Richmond wrote. “Both the policy book and the letter to Attorney General Sessions provided much-needed insight into our legitimate concerns with the criminal justice system, racial profiling, and police brutality, among many other issues. Not only did you and Attorney General Sessions fail to respond to either document in any substantive way, your actions continue to suggest that our pleas for responsible policy solutions were completely disregarded.”
Richmond then listed several examples of the Trump Administration’s ignoring CBC policy advice pertaining to the Black community. They include:

Attorney General Sessions has initiated a second failed war on drugs that will wreck the Black community, an over-policed population, and only exacerbate our nation’s shameful mass incarceration problem.
Black drug users are treated as criminals while White opioid addicts receive a multi-million-dollar federal public health response.
Trump makes “racist dog whistles”, such as calling for “law and order” in underserved, neglected communities across America while concurrently encouraging police brutality.

“When we met, you claimed you cared for our communities. At the time, we provided you with several solutions that you could have discussed with us in order to prove that you were not just blowing smoke. Since our meeting, you have done nothing to help our communities and have taken affirmative actions that have harmed our communities,” Richmond wrote. “Almost everything you have done and said on the topic of race or on issues that implicate race demonstrate a shocking lack of knowledge for an adult public official in the 21st century.
Richmond concluded, “The actions taken by you and your Administration in the short time you have been in office have already caused serious harm to our constituents and the vulnerable communities for whom we speak.”

Newswire : Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law condemns latest Justice Department action to investigate discrimination against whites by college affirmative action admission programs

Clark
Kristen Clarke

Washington, D.C. — Today, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, released the following statement in response to the release of new information signaling efforts to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division toward investigating and suing universities that maintain race-conscious admissions policies.
“We wholly condemn this latest attempt by the Justice Department to attack the use of race-conscious admissions policies in the higher education context. By assembling a team of attorneys in the front office of the Civil Rights Division to focus on so-called ‘intentional race-based discrimination’, this Justice Department is laying the groundwork to attack policies that help promote racial diversity at colleges and universities.
Throughout his career, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has pushed efforts to end affirmative action programs and he has a clear record of hostility to racial diversity. We will not stand by idly as this administration continues to hijack and obstruct this Division’s core civil rights mission. Americans deserve a Justice Department that will focus on preserving racial diversity and addressing racial discrimination faced by African Americans, Latinos and other minority communities.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has been focused on this administration’s efforts to obstruct civil rights enforcement, and has condemned repeated actions taken to reverse or delay action in active matters handled by the Civil Rights Division.

Newswire : Congressional Black Caucus declines follow-up meeting with Trump

By: Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News

Black Cong. Caucus.jpgMeeting of President Donald Trump with members of the Black Congressional Caucus
WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has rejected the invitation to meet with President Trump for a follow up meeting at the White House, according to a letter released by the chair of the committee, Cedric Richmond, on Wednesday.
Citing actions by the Trump administration “that will affirmatively hurt black communities,” Richmond wrote that concerns discussed during a preliminary meeting with Mr. Trump on March 22 “fell on deaf ears.”
· Trump asks black reporter to “set up the meeting” with Congressional Black Caucus
“Given the lack of response to any of the many concerns we have raised with you and your administration, we decline your invitation for all 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to meet with you,” Richmond said.
“I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for,” Richmond added.
Mr. Trump’s extended an invitation to the 49 members of the CBC to return to the White House for a follow up meeting on June 9th, first reported by CBS News last week.
Manigault, whose official title is Assistant to the President and Director of Communications of the Office of Public Liaison, was ridiculed on Twitter for signing the letter as “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.”
In response to one Twitter user who asked if she had received a promotion, Manigault tweeted out a screenshot of a guide for “departmental correspondence” that recommends addressing an assistant to the president as “Honorable” in a letter.
However, an article by The Washington Post points to the Emily Post Institute of Etiquette which states that “the honorific is reserved for “the President, the Vice President, United States senators and congressmen, Cabinet members, all federal judges, ministers plenipotentiary, ambassadors, and governors,” who get to use the title for life.”
The CBC has been skeptical of Manigault’s role as an advocate for the black community in the Trump White House and her self-publicized degree of influence. A CBC source told CBS News that the group was not interested in what they predicted would be another “photo-op.”
Richmond specifically lists several efforts by the administration that would “devastate” the African American community, including
Mr. Trump’s 2018 fiscal budget, Attorney General Jeff Sessions plan to “accelerate the failed war on drugs,” cuts to funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the “effort to dismantle our nation’s health care system.”
Sources say that the CBC is not completely united in the decision to reject Mr. Trump’s invitation for a meeting.
In March, the Vice Chair of the CBC Gwen Moore told CBS News that refusing to engage with the President was a “luxury” that she did not have.
“We don’t have the luxury of saying we won’t meet with the president of the U.S.,” she said at the time. “We have 1,399 more days left in his presidency and I don’t think that our communities would be served well by our not engaging.”

Has Trump helped Black America in his first 100 days?

An Analysis by NBC News – Michael Cottman

“Today and every day of my presidency I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American…We’re going to bring this country together.”- President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has offered grand gestures, questionable policies, and a litany of promises to skeptical African Americans.
He promised to rid inner cities of crime. He promised to invest in education for black public school students and historically black colleges. He promised to rebuild boarded-up urban neighborhoods. He promised to heal a racially polarized America.
When Trump toured The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. last month, he pledged to confront racism and create a bridge of unity for what he called a “divided country.”
But 100 days into Trump’s chaotic presidency, there are few signs – at least publicly – that Trump is focused on racial healing or any of the pre-election commitments to the nation’s citizens of color.
“President Trump’s promises to African-Americans were nothing more than vapid campaign promises,” Neil Foote, a journalism professor at North Texas University and Editor of PoliticsInColor.com, told NBCBLK.
Consider Trump’s position on criminal justice: Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to stall a federal review of police departments where racial profiling, excessive use of force and racially discriminatory police practices have been exposed.
During the Obama Administration, the Justice Department began 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff’s offices and resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in more than 15 cities.
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Sessions has a legal obligation to investigate troubled police departments. “He can’t just cherry pick the cases he wants to investigate,” Ifill told NBCBLK.
Ifill said the Trump administration threatens progress to criminal justice reform, education, health care and a myriad of social programs that are on Trump’s chopping block.
“Our first priority is voting rights,” Ifill said. “Voting ensures that African Americans fully participate in the political process—and not just during presidential elections.”
But Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for America First, a conservative organization that supports Trump’s legislative agenda urged black folks to give Trump a chance.
Pierson said Trump will help improve the quality of life for African Americans through education, jobs, health care – and building the border wall to crack down on crime, drugs and human trafficking.
“Illegal immigration impacts the black community,” Pierson said. “When illegal immigrants settle in the United States, they don’t settle in gated communities, they settle in black communities and poor communities. You can’t have an honest discussion about illegal immigration without talking about the cost of illegal immigration, financially, socially and culturally.”
Civil rights organizations take issue with Pierson and her conservative views. They believe Trump’s policies are detrimental to the prosperity of African Americans and they are distrustful of black conservatives.
Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, said Trump wants to cut social programs that benefit black Americans instead of making good on his campaign promise to rebuild urban communities.
“We will resist any effort to cut funding for human programs,” Morial told NBCBLK. “This is not good public policy to gut these programs and shift funding to the military. We will resist cuts to community development programs, housing programs, workforce programs. These are job killers and dream killers.”
Morial said he believes there is a great opportunity to create a bipartisan jobs initiative. “People – blacks, whites, Latinos – are all dealing with wage stagnation and a jobs initiative could unite America,” he said. “It’s a challenge for urban America. It’s a challenge for rural America.”
This week the Congressional Black Caucus released a report, What Did Trump Do? The First 100 Days #StayWoke List, to make sure African Americans stay informed about the Trump administration policies that impact citizens of color.

“In general, “stay woke” or “stay awake” means to stay focused on what is really being said and done to and around you, especially as it relates to police brutality and other elements of African-Americans’ years-long struggle to fully achieve the American Dream,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, said in the report.
Highlights from the CBC report pull out key budget cuts that would:
· “… cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget by $6 billion. HUD is responsible for providing housing assistance to extremely low-income families and the homeless, and reinvesting in America’s cities and counties.”
· “… eliminate programs that help limit children’s exposure to lead paint. According to the CDC, African-American children are three times more likely to have elevated blood-lead levels.”
· “… eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency, which funds a nationwide network of business centers to help minority-owned business stay competitive and create jobs.”
The Congressional Black Caucus has also underscored how racially polarized America has become since Trump won the White House. While Trump promises a new order for black America, hate groups have risen across the nation. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that more than 400 incidents of harassment or intimidation against blacks, Jews, gays and Muslims occurred in the early days of Trump’s presidency.
Many civil rights activists are also concerned about Trump’s attempts to roll back education initiatives designed to assist students of color. Trump has pledged to make education a priority for black Americans but Besty DeVos, his Secretary of Education, has been criticized for her steadfast support for privatizing public schools.
Two weeks ago, DeVos further angered educators and parents by appointing Candice Jackson as the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights. Jackson, as a student at Stanford University, once complained of racial discrimination because she is white. She said affirmative action promotes racial discrimination.
Critics of the Trump administration question how Jackson can objectively oversee claims of racial discrimination from African Americans and other people of color.
Tracey Winbush, the Ohio Republican Party Treasurer, said DeVos is simply trying to fix underperforming schools – many of them, she said, are located in low-income black communities. She said most African Americans are being overly critical of the president instead of trying to work with him.
“President Trump is doing his best to reach out to all people and especially African Americans,” Winbush, who is African American, told NBCBLK. “The president is making good on his campaign promise to move the African American community forward and get the black community out of its present situation.”
Winbush said too many African Americans “are hating on Trump because he’s a billionaire.” “As an African American Republican, I don’t mind that Trump is a billionaire and his cabinet is the wealthiest cabinet in history, they know how to make money and we can learn from them,” Winbush said. “We have been taught to hate success. Trump is trying to reach out to African Americans but they don’t want to talk to him. We’re losing political clout. Are we moving forward or backward?”
Wilson and other black college presidents met with the new President early in his term. They were hoping that Trump would set aside additional funding for historically black colleges. Instead of a substantive meeting, some said, black college presidents were lured into the Oval Office for a hastily arranged photo-op with Trump.
“Showing up and sitting at the table doesn’t always mean you get what you want,” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org, told NBCBLK. “Every invitation isn’t necessarily an invitation that you want.”
“There is a deep threat to civil rights policies and we have to respond differently,” Robinson said. “These folks are dismantling the ideals of American democracy. We can’t wait for meetings at the White House.”
Trump, who received eight percent of the black vote during the presidential election, has tried to convince black Americans that he is a champion for their concerns. [Trump fared a bit better than Mitt Romney, who only garnered six percent of the black vote when he ran for president in 2012.]
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Civil rights groups alarmed at Justice Department’s review of local police settlements

AG Jeff SessionsAttorney General Jeff Sessions

By Del Quentin Wilber and Kevin Rector Contact Reporter
Los Angeles Times

Civil rights groups and experts on police reform expressed alarm Tuesday at Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ order for a review of more than a dozen federal agreements with police forces that address problems of racial profiling, discrimination and use of excessive force.
The broad review reflects the Trump administration’s emphasis on bolstering law and order over investigating allegations of police misconduct, and it could lead to changing or scaling back consent agreements or negotiations underway in several cities, including Baltimore and Chicago.
Proposed consent decrees could be scrapped or overhauled in both cities, officials said, despite Justice Department investigations that uncovered systemic problems in their police departments.
The review also could affect an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California into police patterns and practices in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The administration can’t unilaterally unwind consent decrees without court approval, so it’s unclear whether Sessions’ directive could affect the negotiated settlement that led to federal oversight of the Oakland Police Department, which was the result of a 2003 lawsuit.
The Justice Department has recommended 272 changes to help improve the scandal-ridden San Francisco Police Department, but the six-month investigation last year did not lead to a consent decree or a federal takeover.
The Justice Department “is signaling it no longer intends to fully support police reform even in consent decrees they are already active in,” said Christy Lopez, who led the Justice Department’s police investigation efforts under the Obama administration and now is a Georgetown University law professor. “I think it’s incredibly cynical.”
Lopez said Sessions is signaling that the Justice Department has intruded too far into oversight of local policing, even as the administration threatens to withhold federal grants from cities and other jurisdictions that do not help federal agencies locate and arrest immigrants in the country illegally.
Sessions, a critic of federal investigations of local police, wrote in a two-page memo released Monday that the “misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform.”
Sessions said he had ordered his two top deputies to review “collaborative investigations and prosecutions, grant making, technical assistance and training, compliance reviews, existing or contemplated consent decrees and task force participation.”
The Justice Department has 14 such agreements with local police departments, including a high-profile accord reached with the city of Ferguson, Mo. It was hammered out in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed young black man in 2014, which was followed by weeks of street protests.
Such decrees are reached in court, overseen by a federal judge and stipulate changes that local law enforcement agencies must make in response to a Justice Department investigation.
During the Obama administration, the Justice Department launched more than two dozen investigations into local law enforcement agencies accused of misconduct. The goal was to improve both policing and their community relations.
Justice Department officials sought to downplay the review Sessions has ordered, saying it was normal for a new administration to examine policies and procedures inherited from a previous president.
Sessions and his team are “actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public,” Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement.
“The department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights,” Prior said. “While this memo includes the review of any pending consent decrees, the attorney general also recognizes the department’s important role helping communities and police departments achieve these goals.”
On Monday, the Justice Department took its first step under Sessions’ order by asking a federal judge to pause court proceedings for 90 days involving a proposed consent decree affecting Baltimore’s police force.
Baltimore officials and the Justice Department reached the wide-ranging agreement in the waning days of the Obama administration to address a pattern of discrimination and unconstitutional policing. That investigation was sparked by the 2015 death of another black man, 25-year-old Freddie Gray, from injuries suffered while he was in police custody.
In its court filing, the Justice Department asked for the three-month pause so its new leadership could review the proposed agreement to assess whether the court-ordered initiatives “will help ensure that the best result is achieved” for Baltimore’s residents.
A hearing is set for Thursday to allow U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, who is overseeing the negotiations, to gather public comments on the proposed agreement. Baltimore’s leaders, including its mayor and police commissioner, announced opposition to the proposed pause.
“Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect of eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said.
The Justice Department is also certain to review its determination that the Chicago police force was systematically abusive, following a series of police shootings of minorities.
In January, the department issued a scathing report that found that Chicago officers were poorly trained and quick to use excessive force. The report also found the Police Department tolerated racial discrimination. Negotiations on a potential agreement between Chicago and the Justice Department have been in the works. In a joint statement Monday night, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Sessions’ review would not alter their plans to reform police practices.
Sessions said last month that he had read a summary of the Justice Department report on Chicago and that he worried police officers on the streets were pulling back because they feared getting in trouble if they made a mistake.
“We need to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I’m afraid we have done some of that,” Sessions told a gathering of state attorneys general. “So we’re going to pull back” on federal investigations of police departments.
Civil rights advocates said they are concerned about how the Trump administration will respond to police abuses.
“This directive makes clear that the attorney general sees little to no role for the federal government to play in promoting policing reform, even in those communities where the problems are greatest,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit group that has sought greater federal oversight of troubled police departments.