Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., speaks before the Friday House vote on the 2019 Equality Act.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., speaks before the Friday House vote on the 2019 Equality Act. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Passes Bill to Permanently Codify Protections for LGBTQ Feds

Passage comes after Trump administration has rolled back some of those protections.

The House on Friday voted to permanently codify protections for LGBTQ federal employees, taking action just months after the Trump administration removed guidance supporting transgender civil servants in favor of giving agencies more leeway.

The new protections would come as part of the Equality Act, a sweeping bill aimed at prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It would amend the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, the 1991 Government Employee Rights Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ensure protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer federal employees.

In November, the Trump administration removed from the Office of Personnel Management website guidance for all federal agencies to follow regarding transgender employees, and with the deletion implemented new policies for transitioning workers. OPM’s new policy stripped provisions that eased the process for changing gender or names in personnel files, required managers to use the gender pronouns of an employee’s choosing and provided bathroom and locker room access rights.

Natalie Veeney, OPM’s program manager in the Diversity and Inclusion office, explained to an LGBT federal employee group at the time that the agency had decided it was “best to afford agencies more discretion in responding to the needs of their workforce.” She acknowledged the guidance removal was a “shock to many” and that it was “hard for me as well.”

“While it’s not in the direction that we likely would have liked to go, it does not stop the work that we have done,” Veeney said.

At the time, an OPM spokesman said the administration was “fully committed to providing a workplace that is free from discrimination, as outlined in law.”

Trump previously rolled back an Obama-era executive order aimed at protecting LGBT federal contractors. President Obama in 2014 also issued an executive order to prohibit discrimination against transgender federal employees. President Clinton first issued an executive order in 1998 to prohibit the discrimination in the federal civil service on the basis of sexual orientation.

All Democrats and eight Republicans supported the Equality Act on Friday. Still, the measure is unlikely to make it past the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Equal treatment under the law and a commitment to fairness and equality are founding values of our country,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who authored the legislation. “Discrimination of any kind is wrong and no one should ever be treated as less than equal because of who they are or who they love.”

Correction: This story originally misstated the final vote tally. It has been corrected. 

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