Trump officials ‘accidentally’ erase discrimination protections for LGBT employees

Trump officials have claimed that they accidentally removed protections for their LGBT employees.

Under its new Republican leadership, the Department of Commerce has revised its equal employment opportunity policy for employees, to omit a reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The change comes from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who issued a new version of the Secretarial Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity this week.

Wilbur Ross

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The 2016 statement had listed protected characteristics as “race, colour, religion, sex,  sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, genetic information, or disability”.

However, the 2017 version was very specifically edited to remove LGBT people.

It instead said: “The Department of Commerce does not tolerate behavior, harassment, discrimination or prejudice based on race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”

Speaking to Buzzfeed after the move attracted outcry from LGBT campaigners and Democrats, a spokesperson for the department claimed the change was “never intended”.

The spokesperson said: “To be clear, the Department’s EEO policy statement was never intended to change the policy or exclude any protected categories.

“The Department of Commerce policy remains that we do not discriminate on the basis of transgender status and sexual orientation. Department employees will continue to enjoy the fullest extent of the protections of all the non-discrimination laws.

They added that the policy would be reissued with the original wording restored, explaining: “Secretary Ross has directed the Department to reissue the policy statement to address any concerns and prevent misinterpretation.”

However, the U-turn has been met with cynicism.

Democratic National Committee spokesperson Joel Kasnetz said: “You can’t un-ring a bell.

“By trying to erase LGBTQ people from the Commerce Department’s nondiscrimination policy, the Trump administration sent a crystal clear message to LGBTQ Americans: ‘You’re not welcome here.’

“While the Trump administration is trying to turn back the clock on progress, Democrats will fight for LGBTQ Americans’ right to feel safe in their place of work.

“We demand the Trump administration make a commitment to strengthen instead of roll back protections for LGBT Americans.”

David Stacy, Government Affairs Director of Human Rights Campaign, said: “Yet again, we see the Trump/Pence Administration actively seeking to undermine rights for LGBTQ people.

“The Department of Commerce’s latest move to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity in their Equal Employment Opportunity statement is mean-spirited, deceptive and irresponsible.

“Under the Civil Service Reform Act and the Executive Orders signed by Presidents Clinton and Obama, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is prohibited in federal employment. The Commerce Department’s EEO statement is meant to inform workers and applicants about their legal protections.

“Cutting specific mention of sexual orientation and gender identity protections is a slap in the face to LGBTQ federal employees who proudly serve at the Department of Commerce and sadly signals that this administration does not value them.”