The Trump administration just can’t stop erasing the LGBTQ+ community
According to HuffPost, the Department of the Interior removed language on gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from anti-discrimination guidelines sent out to employees. The ethics manual regarding harassment and mistreatment against government workers mandates that all staff “adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, or handicap,” but does not mention sexual orientation.
While the publication does not specify when the language was removed, the Obama administration specified in its 2009 guidelines that the definition of workplace discrimination included bias on the basis of “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.”
This is not the first time the Interior Department, which oversees the conservation of federal lands, has removed gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from its internal guidelines. As HuffPost reports, Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt also removed sexual orientation from an email sent to staff members — one which contained nearly identical language — during “his first day on the job” in August 2017.
But according to the Trump administration, the erasure of language forbidding discrimination is not intended as a slight against any members of the LGBTQ+ community. Carol Danko, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, claims the phrases were removed because they were redundant.
“Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under Title VII the term ‘sex’ includes gender, gender identity, transgender status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy,” Danko told HuffPost.
While the EEOC did, in fact, declare back in July 2015 that it would henceforth interpret anti-queer discrimination as banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which forbids workplace bias on the basis of characteristics like race and sex — the Justice Department has come to the opposite conclusion. The agency, currently overseen by William Barr, has argued at the Supreme Court that it should be legal to fire LGBTQ+ workers on the basis of their identities.
Despite the apparent contradiction, the Interior Department insists the erasure of gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees from anti-discrimination guidelines is a “a non-story seeking controversy where none exists.”
“Under Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership, the Interior Department has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Danko claimed. “In fact, our internal policies have been redrafted with a broader brushstroke to explicitly capture inappropriate conduct beyond the legal standards of harassment and discrimination such as political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, and status as a parent.”
While experts clarify that the Interior Department still has the same obligations to employees regardless of what is included in its ethics manual, it continues a troubling trend of the Trump administration removing language on LGBTQ+ identity from federal websites and policy.
Shortly after Trump took office in January 2017, mentions of LGBTQ+ people were deleted from the webpages for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, questions regarding LGBTQ+ identity were erased from data collection on older adults, youth in foster care, and crime victims.
Overall, the Trump administration is responsible for over 130 attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.