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Federal Government Doesn’t Want Transgendered Employee to Help Fight War on Terror

By Jessica Christensen,
Legal Satyricon Employment Law Correspondent

Trial concluded this morning in Shroer v. Billington (Library of Congress), a case that considers whether or not a transgendered job applicant is covered by federal antidiscrimination laws.

After more than 25 years as an Airborne Ranger with Special Forces training, after having served in combat operations in Panama, Haiti and Rwanda, and after having spent years advising top U.S. officials – including Vice-President Cheney – regarding terrorism issues, David Schroer was denied a terrorism specialist position with the Library of Congress because he had decided to finally make the change and live his (now her) life as Diane Schroer. Upon learning of Schroer’s impending switch, the Library rescinded its previous job offer, stating that “for the good of the service” Diane would not be a “good fit.” (source)

Schroer brought claims under Title VII, alleging that she was discriminated against based on her sex. Specifically she claims that (1) the decision to rescind her job offer was unlawful “sexual stereotyping” and (2) that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination prohibits discrimination against transsexuals as transsexuals. The Department of Justice, defending the Library, contends that Title VII doesn’t protect Diane because gender-identity discrimination is not covered by the statute. Judge Robertson denied the DOJ’s multiple motions for summary judgment, noting that the definition of “sex” under the Civil Rights Act is broader than just chromosomal make-up, and extends to social, cultural and identity elements. (source)

Following the bench trial (the case has now been submitted to the court for a ruling) the court will determine whether or not the Library considered Schroer’s “failure to conform to masculinity stereotypes” in rescinding her job offer. In addition, the court will determine whether or not the “legitimate business reasons” offered by the Library were, in fact, legitimate.

The “legitimate business reasons” offered by the Library – that Schroer’s military and intelligence contacts will not be valuable once she completes the male-to-female sexual reassignment, and that military and government contacts will be reluctant to deal with Schroer – highlight the existence and insidiousness of the discrimination at issue in the case. Essentially, the Library contends that the fear of other people’s prejudice absolves the government from having to act in a non-discriminatory manner.

A video of Diane Schroer discussing her military background and her case can be found on the ACLU’s website (here).

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