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September 26, 2008

TG woman wins Library of Congress job bias case

 

Court rules that withdrawing job offer was sex discrimination

Washington, D.C.--A transgendered woman was illegally discriminated against by the Library of Congress, a U.S. District Court judge ruled on September 19.

In a decision the American Civil Liberties Union called “groundbreaking,” the court ruled that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law.

Diane Schroer, who as David Schroer was a commander in the Special Forces and is an authority in terrorism analysis, was offered a job at the Library of Congress in 2005.

Schroer was in talks to be a terrorism expert in the Congressional Research Service, the library’s division that performs analyses for Congress.

However, when she told Charlotte Preece, who provided hiring recommendations for the CRS, that she was going to begin living as a woman on a full-time basis, Preece decided against hiring Schroer.

In the telephone call to Schroer notifying her that she wasn’t getting the job, Preece told him that officials at the Library of Congress were worried the transition would put Schroer’s security clearance at risk, that her sources would be less willing to share information if Schroer were presenting as female, and that the reconstructive surgeries would distract her from her duties.

Schroer sued, backed up by the ACLU, arguing that the library unfairly discriminated on the basis of sex.

Judge James Robinson agreed, writing, “The evidence established that the library was enthusiastic about hiring David Schroer--until she disclosed her transsexuality. The library revoked the offer when it learned that a man named David intended to become, legally, culturally, and physically, a woman named Diane.”

The judge compared the discrimination to that based on religion.

“Imagine that an employee is fired because she converts from Christianity to Judaism. Imagine too that her employer testified that he harbors no bias toward either Christians or Jews but only ‘converts.’ That would be a clear case of discrimination ‘because of religion,’ ” Robinson continued. “No court would take seriously the notion that ‘converts’ are not covered by the statute.”

Robinson still has to decide on damages in the case, and the Library of Congress is likely to appeal the decision.

Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking gay member of Congress, sent a letter to James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, asking that the organization not appeal the decision.

“I strongly urge you not to appeal,” wrote Frank. “I will be working with my congressional colleagues because it would be a great source of stress to us if you were to-- as an institution that bears our name--appeal a decision that is plainly in the interest of fairness,” Frank’s letter was quoted in The Hill.

Library of Congress spokesperson Jennifer Gavin said that no decision had been made on whether or not to appeal, and that the Department of Justice would likely have an opinion on the matter.

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

 


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