Louisville Fairness Campaign leaders are praising a landmark decision by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled that discrimination based on gender identity qualifies as sex discrimination under existing federal law.
The decision is being heralded as a “sea change” by gay rights advocates and came about as part of a resolution to a case filed by Mia Macy and the Transgender Law Center in California. Macy says she was denied a job as a ballistics technician at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms because she is transgendered.
Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the EEOC’s decision is a landmark achievement for the gay rights movement and elevates a marginalized community.
“This is huge for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, but particularly transgendered community. What this decision does is really elevate the transgender community to a level of protections that not even lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals enjoy on a federal level,” he says.
Macy is a veteran and former police detective, who initially applied for the position as male and had already been trained on ATF’s ballistics computer system. However, after disclosing her gender transition during the hiring process, Macy was told that funding for that position had been suddenly cut. She later learned that someone else had been hired for the job.
Comprehensive studies have shown close to 90 percent of transgender individuals have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. Despite critics claims, federal law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, though 16 states and Washington, D.C. have such laws.
In 1999, the city of Louisville became one of the first cities to bar discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the state, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have such civil rights protections for LGBT residents.
Hartman says the case will have an impact on public and private employers across the country, and in states that haven’t passed Fairness laws.
“I think that this decision sets a precedent that all employers are going to have to follow that they cannot discriminate their transgender employees or even folks applying for a job. That they can’t be discriminated against either based upon the announcement today,” he says.
The EEOC decision marks the first time the agency has offered clear guidance on the issue of transgendered discrimination.