US State Department says discrimination against trans people is bad

US President Donald Trump announces US Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

The US State Department has condemned discrimination against transgender people, as the US government continues to discriminate against transgender people.

The State Department, headed by millionaire businessman Rex Tillerson, put out a release to mark yesterday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The release claims that “the United States honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who have lost their lives to acts of violence”.

However, the words ring particularly hollow as the Trump administration continues its work to dismantle equality for transgender people.

The State Department release says: “On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States honors the memory of the many transgender individuals who have lost their lives to acts of violence.

“Transgender individuals and their advocates, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex persons, are facing increasing physical attacks and arbitrary arrests in many parts of the world. Often these attacks are perpetrated by government officials, undermining the rule of law.

“Transgender persons should not be subjected to violence or discrimination, and the human rights they share with all persons should be respected.

“On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, the United States remains committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons.

“These principles are inherent in our own Constitution and drive the diplomacy of the United States.”

The statement is surprising given Trump has so vocally embarked on a campaign to ban transgender people from the military – personally announcing the anti-trans policy and attempting to defend it in court.

Meanwhile Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hardline opponent of LGBT rights, has worked to undermine protections for transgender people across the federal government, in a series of decisions reversing Obama administration guidance.

He issued a directive earlier this month protecting “the right to perform or abstain from performing certain physical acts in accordance with one’s beliefs”, granting a license to discriminate against LGBT people based on religion.

FALLS CHURCH, VA - OCTOBER 12: Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a speech titled "the crisis facing our asylum system." at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, on October 12, 2017 in Falls Church, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Getty)

Under his leadership, the Justice Department has rolled back civil rights protections for transgender people, and has also made an uninvited intervention into a discrimination case this year to argue against discrimination protections for gay employees.

In its statement, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund suggested that anti-trans discrimination is a “precursor to violence”.

TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss said: “On this Transgender Day of Remembrance we reflect on countless trans individuals whose lives were cut short by senseless acts of violence, simply for living authentically.

“This year alone 26 trans people have been killed by hate in the United States, and those are only those we know of. Many such deaths go unreported.

“Nearly all those killed this year were people of color. Rampant discrimination – including barriers to employment, health care, education and public accommodations – is the precursor to such violence.

“It is also a wake-up call for those who care about the trans community to stand together, fight for protections and work to foster a climate of understanding and acceptance.

“We must all do our part to uplift our community, celebrate our vibrancy, and honor our immense contributions to the world.

“TLDEF will never waiver in our commitment to those we serve. Each day we will work for the betterment of trans lives, and do so as a tribute to every trans person who paid the ultimate price for being themselves.”

British MPs recently accused Donald Trump of “undermining” work on global LGBTI rights by pursuing a regressive agenda.

At a debate in the UK’s House of Commons yesterday, politicians from across parties voiced concern at developments in the United States on LGBT issues.

Labour MP Stephen Twigg said: “I want to say something about what is happening in the United States of America. President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the US military is an enormous shame, one I hope we can condemn on a cross-party basis.

“I pay tribute to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in America for his positive and measured response to President Trump’s actions. I urge our Government to do all they can to press President Trump to think again on his attempt to ban trans people from the US armed forces.

“That, however, is not the only incident of greater homophobia and transphobia in American politics and policy. Recently, the United States voted against a UN Human Rights Council resolution that condemned the use of the death penalty against people because they are LGBT.

“President Obama left a very positive legacy on LGBT. Tragically, President Trump is undoing it.

“That leaves a vacuum in global LGBT rights. I hope that the United Kingdom, working with like-minded countries around the world, will play a leadership role to ensure we do not slip back, but instead move forward to global LGBT equality.”

Conservative MP Luke Graham added: “We in the UK must show international leadership, as it is very important in this issue.

Luke Graham

“The United States was once a beacon for all kinds of individual rights and I would like to share with Members my disappointment, which I am sure they share, at the decisions of the latest American President to ban further recruitment of trans soldiers and to deny the funding of certain medical treatments for those soldiers.

“If someone is brave enough to fight for their country, their country should be brave enough to fight for them.”

The Scottish National Party’s Hannah Bardell added: “[Luke Graham] referred to President Trump’s abhorrent stance on transgender people in the army.

“The restoration of the military ban on transgender people is just another regressive and divisive step that he has made, and it is good to see the UK Government standing up to it.

“Perhaps President Trump could take inspiration from former President Jimmy Carter, who famously said: ‘America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America’.

Hannah Bardell