Metro Weekly

Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force demands meeting with Trump civil rights officials

Members of Congress decry Trump administration's "relentless assault" on transgender community

Rep. Joe Kennedy

The Transgender Equality Task Force, an arm of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, has demanded a meeting with eight Trump cabinet secretaries who oversee agencies tasked with enforcing various aspects of the nation’s civil rights laws.

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson, the Task Force asked for a meeting to discuss its members’ concerns about actions taken by the Trump administration that appear to undermine or deny protections for the transgender community.

The letter asks for a response to their request for a meeting by Feb. 23.

Specifically, members of the Task Force are concerned about actions that include a proposed ban on transgender service members, the elimination of protections for transgender students, a decision not to hear civil rights complaints by transgender students who are barred from using restrooms matching their gender identity, the creation of a division within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights to protect the “religious freedom” of health care providers, and attacks on health care regulations that require medically necessary transition-related care to be covered by insurance. 

“We intend to bring together the heads of the departments responsibly for safeguarding the rights of all Americans to discuss the Administration’s relentless assault on transgender Americans,” the letter reads. “During the first year of this Administration, transgender Americans have endured a systematic attack on their dignity, rights and freedom.”

“We believe the ‘…government of the people, by the people, and for the people…’ must apply to all Americans, not just the politically-favored. The Trump Administration should no longer encourage doctors to deny health care services to patients in need, promote an education system that makes children feel unwelcome in their own schools, allow employers to deny jobs to workers simply because of their gender identity, and turn away patriots from serving in the military simply because of who they are,” the letter reads. 

“The Transgender Equality Task Force is committed to working with you to protect the rights of minority groups and to end the current pattern of publicly-funded and government-sanctioned discrimination.”

The letter was signed by Task Force Chair Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Don McEachin (D-Va.).

“The Trump Administration has systemically targeted transgender individuals by rolling back protections for them in our schools, doctors’ offices and armed forces,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The public servants tasked in any administration with protecting civil rights serve a crucial role in the defense of fundamental freedoms of all Americans. The Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force has requested this urgent meeting to clarify the Trump Administration’s official policy on civil rights and provide guidance for the thousands of Americans impacted by their failure to uphold equal protection.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com