Federal Court Rules Transgender Discrimination Lawsuit Against Library of Congress Can Proceed

March 31, 2006 12:00 am
Colonel Diane Schroer. Photo by Tom Williams.

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WASHINGTON, DC -- Today a federal judge found that an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a transgender veteran against the Library of Congress can go forward.

"I couldn't understand how the country that I had risked my life for could believe that it was ok to rescind its job offer to me solely because I'm transgender," said Diane Schroer, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army. "Today's decision begins to restore my faith in our government."

Finding that sex may not be "a cut-and-dried matter of chromosomes," the court ruled that federal protections against sex discrimination may also protect transgender people who are discriminated against based on their gender identity. In rejecting the government's argument that discrimination against transgender people is not sex discrimination, the court noted "the factual complexities that underlie human sexual identity. These complexities stem from real variations in how the different components of biological sexuality -- chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, and neurological -- interact with each other, and in turn, with social, psychological, and legal conceptions of gender."

The court held that given these complexities, it may be that federal law prohibits discrimination against transgender people because it is a form of sex discrimination, pure and simple. The court will rule on that question in the case after evidence about the nature of gender and gender identity is developed.

"Today the court sent a very clear message to employers everywhere that transgender discrimination won't be tolerated in the workplace," said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the Library of Congress on June 2, 2005. After retiring from the military, Schroer, who had been hand-picked to head up a classified national security operation while serving as an Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer, applied for a position with the Library of Congress as the senior terrorism research analyst. Soon thereafter she was offered the job, which she accepted immediately. Prior to starting work, Schroer took her future boss to lunch to explain that she was in the process of transitioning and thought it would be easier for everyone if she simply started work presenting as female. The following day, Schroer received a call from her future boss rescinding the offer, telling her that she wasn't a "good fit" for the Library of Congress.

The lawsuit charges that the Library of Congress unlawfully refused to hire Schroer in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against sex discrimination in the workplace. The Library of Congress moved to dismiss the case claiming that transgender people are not covered under Title VII. Today the court rejected those claims and the case will now proceed to trial


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