October 6, 2017
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Yesterday afternoon U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo announcing that the Department of Justice does not interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect transgender individuals in the workplace. The Department of Justice maintains that sex discrimination applies only to discrimination between men and women, understood as biological categories, and not to gender identities.
Yesterday’s announcement will have no effect on policies and procedures, including employment practices, at Amherst. The College prohibits discrimination against employees and students on the basis of sex and gender, including sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts also includes gender identity as a protected class with regard to employment, housing, credit, and public education.
Though our employees remain protected by College policy and state law, yesterday’s announcement is another blow to members of our community, who have cause for deep concern about employment and job security in other parts of the country, about a series of decisions at the federal level that threaten LGBTQ rights and protection, and about the environment those decisions create. The decisions include last February’s revocation of the mandate that schools treat transgender students in ways consistent with their gender identity, the ban that was announced on military service by transgender individuals, and the DOJ’s recent Supreme Court brief in support of a business owner who refused to serve a gay couple. I urge members of our community to reach out to one another in support and to remember that everyone at Amherst College is a welcomed and valued part of the community because of who we are as people, a significant part of which for each one of us is gender identity and expression.