Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed an Obama-era policy explicitly defining transgender workers as protected under employment discrimination laws, CBS News' Paula Reid reports.

The Wednesday policy reversal of what qualifies as employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act comes down to an idealogical disagreement over whether "sex" is decided by a person's birth certificate, or whether sexual discrimination includes broader gender identity. Title VII prohibits any employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Former Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014 interpreted "sex" discrimination to apply to discrimination based on gender identity, while Sessions' DOJ interprets that it only applies to discrimination between men and women. 

Sessions' DOJ argues Holder went beyond the definition of the 1964 law by including transgender discrimination. 

"The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided," DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today's action. This Department remains committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals, and will continue to enforce the numerous laws that Congress has enacted that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." 

The move comes after President Trump has announced he will prohibit transgender individuals from serving in the military, a decision that shocked his own party and caused backlash from Democrats and civil liberties groups.

Sessions' latest policy shift could very well could end up in court, Reid reports. Already, it's under fire from civil liberties groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

"Today marks another low point for a Department of Justice, which has been cruelly consistent in its hostility towards the LGBT community and in particular its inability to treat transgender people with basic dignity and respect," James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. 

"This Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions has time and time again made it clear that its explicit agenda is to attack and undermine the civil rights of our most vulnerable communities, rather than standing up for them as they should be doing," Esseks continued. "Discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination, just as DOJ recognized years ago. We are confident that the courts will continue to agree and will reject the politically driven decision by Attorney General Sessions."

A Cambridge University college has agreed to change its rules to ensure transgender women are welcome.

Murray Edwards college, founded in 1954, will now allow any self-identifying woman to attend the college.

The new rules will be applied to any student who has taken steps to identify as a woman, regardless of the gender on their birth certificate or other official documentation.

The esteemed college has previously educated the likes of out comedian Sue Perkins, Strictly Come Dancing host Claudia Winkleman and actress Tilda Swinton.Dame Barbara Stocking, president of the college, said: “We are a college that is open to all outstanding young women and so it is absolutely right, both legally and within our set of values, for anyone who identifies as female to be able to apply to study with us.

"Society is changing and there is now a greater understanding of the complexities of gender.”

An official statement by Murray Edwards said existing Cambridge students will also be permitted to move into the college if they transition to female while there.

“Many of us within the college have sympathy with the idea that gender is not binary, and have concerns that narrow gender identities and the expectations associated with them are damaging both to individuals and to wider society.

“The college is also supportive of students who do not wish to define themselves as either female or male.

“At the admissions level, we will consider any student who, at the point of application, identifies as female and, where they have been identified as male at birth, has taken steps to live in the female gender (or has been legally recognised as female via the Gender Recognition Act 2004).

“Similarly, just as we would consider any other female student seeking to transfer to this college during their degree, we would consider any student who, at the point of requesting the transfer, identifies as female.”

The new rules will also allow students who transition to male to move to mixed colleges.

“Should the student decide that they would prefer to be in a mixed college if transitioning to male or if rejecting a binary gender category, the college would be fully supportive of a transfer and do all that was possible to bring one about,” they said.

 

Fans worldwide are in mourning, after the announcement that rock icon Tom Petty died last night, of a heart attack in his home in California.

It came as a shock to many, as Petty had only recently finished his latest tour, a 40th Anniversary celebration with his band The Heartbreakers

He had hinted that this may be his last circuit, saying “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one,” but many believed it to be an empty threat.

Midway through the tour, however, Petty made news for what was seen as a show of support for transgender rights.

In the performance of one of his most famous songs, “American Girl,” Petty regularly projected pictures of a diverse group of women.

On this tour, the video footage included a photo of transgender actress and activist Alexis Arquette.

Arquette came out as transgender in her late 30s, and died last year, aged 47, from complications after having lived for almost 30 years with HIV.

The photo took on particular significance when Petty played a sold-out show in New York on July 26, just hours after Trump announced his transgender military ban.

Many hailed Petty’s inclusion of Arquette as a strong political statement, considering the timing.

David Arquette, Alexis’ brother, thanked Petty on Instagram for the gesture.

Petty hadn’t been shy about expressing his opinion on other political topics. In an interview with Billboard in 2014, he lashed out at members of the Catholic community.

“I’m fine with whatever religion you want to have, but it can’t tell anybody it’s OK to kill people, and it can’t abuse children systematically for God knows how many years.”

“It seems to me that no one’s got Christ more wrong than the Christians,” he continued.

He also notoriously refused the rights of his songs to a number of Republican political candidates, even going so far as to file a cease-and-desist when George W. Bush tried to use Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down,” in his Presidential campaign.

In contrast, Petty was glad to let then-President Obama walk onstage to the song at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, saying he “got chills.”

After the murder of a transgender teen in Missouri, prosecutors said the three main suspects arrested will not face hate crime charges. Texas County authorities have charged Andrew Vrba, Isis Schauer, both 18, and Briana Calderas, 24, with the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld after she was reported missing on September 14.

Steinfeld, who was born as Joseph Matthew Steinfeld, was missing for a month before police found her badly burned remains in a bag dumped in a chicken coop near the mobile home where the teen lived in with the suspects, reports said.

Calderas and Schauer allegedly said Vrba had repeatedly stabbed the victim’s genitals inside the residence’s living room, gouged her eyes out and later bragged about the killing, according to court records.

The teens allegedly burned and disposed of the body after the killing, reports said.

After the suspects' arrests, Calderas allegedly confessed to police she tried to help hide the body and told them where the murder weapon could be found, according to reports.

The details of Steinfeld’s murder have caused LGBTQ advocates to call for the suspects to face hate crime charges.

"There couldn't be a more vivid example of someone being targeted because of their gender identity than being stabbed in their genitals," Dru Levasseur, director of the Transgender Rights Project for Lambda Legal, told CNN. "I've heard complete outrage from trans people about how they (authorities) could not prosecute this as a hate crime.”

Authorities said, however, that they do not believe the murders were motivated by the teen’s sexuality.

"I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters. That is a hate crime in itself,” Prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr told the Associated Press.

In Missouri, hate-crime charges can not be added onto a first-degree murder charge.

Human Rights Campaign spokesman Chris Sgro said Steinfeld’s death marks the 21sttransgender person to be killed in the U.S. this year.

"This violence, often motivated by hatred, must come to an end. We will continue to mourn Ally and fight back against transphobia and anti-trans violence,” Sgro told the AP.

 

Isabella Red Cloud is a transgender woman of color living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who said she was turned away from the only place in town serving a hot meal three times a day to the homeless, impoverished and unemployed.

Red Cloud, 26, identifies as Two Spirit and is currently unemployed. She wore a dress on Saturday when she visited Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Red Cloud said she was told by a man identified only as “Don,” that she had to leave because she was “dressed inappropriately,” and that she could not come back until she “dressed like a man.”

As she was being escorted out, Red Cloud activated the Facebook app on her mobile phone and started a live stream to document what was happening.

"I don’t know a thing about a woman being turned away,” director Fran Stenberg told LGBTQ Nation in a phone interview. “It was a man that was turned away,” he said, and confirmed he understood what the term “transgender” means when informed Red Cloud identifies as a transgender woman.

“What I know about, simply, is that it was a decision that was made, and occasionally we have to refuse service to somebody because they’re disruptive, or whatever. That’s as much as I know about it.”

When asked what was disruptive about this woman seeking food, Stenberg replied that this wasn’t the first time Red Cloud has done this, meaning presenting herself as the woman she is, and that it was her gender expression that caused her ejection:

We try to keep a safe place and if there’s any disruptive action of anybody, no matter what it is about, we ask them to leave and come back at some other time. [Being out as a trans woman] creates an animosity and we try to keep a safe place for others.

Stenberg said his mission was acting according to the Bible. “Christianity is dependent on our obedience to God.” It’s interesting to note that on the mission’s website the founder is listed as Thomas F. Morse, a convicted felon who served time for murder.

Red Cloud was released from prison for auto theft in February and is currently a transient, couch-surfing with friends. She says the last time she tried to visit the mission was seven years ago, before beginning her prison sentnce. The incident on Saturday said left her so depressed she said she contemplated suicide; concerned friends came to her aid and offered her love and support.

A small group of Red Cloud’s supporters joined her the next day in a march from the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Joseph to the mission, waving a rainbow flag. and then they attempted to attend Sunday evening services.

This time, “Don,” the same man who ejected her on Saturday, called police to have them removed for trespassing on Sunday.

Red Cloud said they walked past him and were sitting, praying and singing for about ten minutes before police arrived and escorted them out, handing each a trespassing notice that they were required by law to stay off the premises for six months.

A friend of Red Cloud’s recorded the incident on cellphone video.

 

Stenberg told LGBTQ Nation police were called because “they were there disrupting the service,” and the protesters were ejected because “they were promoting what they believe and how they feel,” which is that a trans woman is a woman. When asked if he understood that the group was expressing their support for transgender rights, Stenberg said, “I would say that’s right.”

Red Cloud said police treated them with respect and expressed that they were disappointed about how they were treated. “Officer Cooke was really, really supportive,” she said, and added that she has received a lot of support since posting the incident.

This story, first published in LGBTQ Nation, was followed up by KDLT-TV in Sioux Falls Monday evening. Both Red Cloud and transgender advocate Kendra Kay Heathscott spoke to the station about the incidents, as did Stenberg.

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