It’s illegal to discriminate ‘because of sex.’ But what does that actually mean?

From The Los Angeles Times:  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0515-thomas-title-vii-evolution-20160515-story.html

By Gillian Thomas
May 16, 2016

he Department of Justice last week threw down the gauntlet in North Carolina, filing a lawsuit alleging that the state violated federal anti-discrimination laws by restricting trans individuals’ access to bathrooms in state government buildings. One of those federal laws, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, forbids employment discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion – and sex. DOJ says that North Carolina has engaged in sex discrimination, because, in DOJ’s view, “sex” includes “gender identity.”

The government’s interpretation of that word — “sex” — has broadened significantly since Title VII’s passage. Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency created by Title VII and vested with primary enforcement authority for the statute, initially understood “because of sex” to mean no more than overt disadvantages to women in favor of men, and showed no interest in enforcing the provision at all. It’s taken decades for the legal understanding of sex to arrive at where it is today, and it’s a progression that maps, and mirrors, our cultural understanding of sex as more than just biology.

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“Sex” was added to Title VII’s list of protected characteristics at the last minute by Rep. Howard Smith of Virginia, an avowed opponent of the Civil Rights Act. Although Smith was, incongruously, a longtime supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, his jocular tone during much of the floor debate on the sex amendment suggested that he was less than serious about winning its adoption. (Historians have come to believe that Smith likely was sincere, if only because he feared that an employment rights bill that protected against race but not sex discrimination would place white women at a disadvantage in the workplace.) The amendment ultimately passed, but not without a good deal of bemused commentary from House members — only 12 of whom were women — at the notion that women should stand on equal footing in the workplace.

The unceremonious addition of “sex” to Title VII prompted a dismissive attitude among the EEOC’s leadership. When a reporter at a press conference asked Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., the agency’s first Chair, “What about sex?” he had only a joke for an answer. “Don’t get me started,” he said. “I’m all for it.” Another of the agency’s first leaders wrote off the Title VII sex provision as a “fluke” that was “born out of wedlock.”

Not surprisingly, then, although fully one-third of the charges filed with the EEOC in its first year of existence alleged sex discrimination, the agency was slow to articulate what illegal discrimination “because of sex” even meant. It waffled, for instance, on whether to sanction job ads that were separated into “help wanted — male” and “help wanted — female,” or the airline industry’s widespread rules that female flight attendants couldn’t be married, over the age of 30 or pregnant.

But thanks to pressure from feminist lawyers within the EEOC, as well as forces outside it — notably the National Organization for Women, founded in part to protest the agency’s cavalier Title VII enforcement — the agency began to right itself.

In 1968, it ruled that sex-segregated ads violated Title VII, and that flight attendants should not be subject to marriage and age restrictions. In 1972, it updated its “Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex” to prohibit pregnancy discrimination and sex-differentiated terms in employer pension plans. In even later versions of the Guidelines, the EEOC disapproved “fetal protection policies” that disqualified women from jobs that involved exposure to dangerous chemicals, declared bias against workers with caregiving responsibilities to be a form of sex discrimination, and adopted a definition of pregnancy discrimination that imposed robust obligations on employers to accommodate pregnant employees’ physical limitations.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0515-thomas-title-vii-evolution-20160515-story.html

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Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/on-my-campus-jews-are-the-only-minority-we-dont-protect_us_572a9b98e4b046ff51c08a44

Michael Sitver
05/05/2016

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression. All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias.

When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own. A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”. It was uncivil, and unproductive, but the council-members did not once that day condemn the personal nature of these attacks, or defend the rights of the opposition to make their case.

At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish Civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government. Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged. The representatives never even brought the issue up.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”. The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/on-my-campus-jews-are-the-only-minority-we-dont-protect_us_572a9b98e4b046ff51c08a44

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Woman mistaken for transgender harassed in Walmart bathroom

From News Times:  http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Woman-mistaken-for-transgender-harassed-in-7471666.php#photo-10075102

By Matt DeRienzo
Monday, May 16, 2016

DANBURY – Aimee Toms was washing her hands in the women’s bathroom at Walmart in Danbury Friday when a stranger approached her and said, “You’re disgusting!” and “You don’t belong here!”

After momentary confusion, she realized that the woman next to her thought – because of her pixie-style haircut and baseball cap – that she was transgender.

 Toms believes the incident happened because of the national controversy sparked by a law that was passed in North Carolina attempting to force transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they were identified as at birth. Since then, religious conservatives have launched a boycott of Walmart competitor Target, which has said transgender people are welcome to use its bathrooms freely. Nationally, Walmart has been silent on the issue.

Toms, a 22-year-old from Naugatuck who works at a retail store in the Bethel-Danbury retail area around Walmart, posted a video “rant” about her experience on Facebook Friday that had been viewed more than 12,000 times by Sunday evening.

“After experiencing the discrimination they face firsthand, I cannot fathom the discrimination transgender people must face in a lifetime,” she said. “Can you imagine going out every day and having people tell you you should not be who you are or that people will not accept you as who you are?”

Toms said on Sunday that she isn’t embarrassed talking about someone mistaking her for male, just upset that the North Carolina law has emboldened people like the woman she encountered.

“I think this is all just a response. No one was telling these people to be scared of transgender people before. No one was telling them that they should be throwing people out of bathrooms,” Toms said. “As if it wasn’t scary enough for transgender people to use the bathroom before.”

Besides being a pretty normal choice of style for women, Toms’ has a short haircut because she recently donated hair – for the third time – to a program that makes wigs for child cancer patients.

“I’ve had people call me all sorts of names for having short hair. I’ve had people call me a boy, I’ve had people call me a dyke, I’ve had people call me gay.” Toms said. “I’m grateful that that woman only called me disgusting and didn’t physically attack me … I was a victim of transphobia today as a cisgender female because my hair is short.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Woman-mistaken-for-transgender-harassed-in-7471666.php#photo-10075102

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