Last week, the Trump administration released a memorandum stating that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act's ban on sex discrimination only pertains to biological sex and not gender identity.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions released the memo last Wednesday, which contradicted official statements from the previous administration.
"The Department of Justice cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided," DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement quoted by CNN.
"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."
Here are four things to know about the official memo, including the narrowness of its focus and whether or not it overrules laws protecting transgender individuals. (Click arrow above image)
'Law, Not Policy'
In the Oct. 4 memo, AG Sessions clarified that Title VII's sex discrimination clause is about biological sex, not gender identity, but the memo is not about other laws related to gender identity.
"The sole issue addressed in this memorandum is what conduct Title VII prohibits by its terms, not what conduct should be prohibited by statute, regulation, or employer action," noted the memo.
"As a law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice must interpret Title VII as written by Congress."
The memo went to state that the Department of Justice "will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals."
No Removal of Anti-Discrimination Laws
The memo stressed that while rejecting the argument that gender identity was protected by Title VII, the Justice Department was not going to stop enforcing anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting transgender individuals.
"Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to ... remove or reduce the protections against discrimination on the basis of sex that Congress has provided all individuals, including transgender individuals, under Title VII," noted the memo.
"In addition, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act prohibit gender identity discrimination along with other types of discrimination in certain contexts."
The memo added that the Justice Department "has vigorously enforced such laws, and will continue to do so, on behalf of all Americans, including transgender Americans."
Obama Administration Memo
The memo specifically overturns a December 2014 memo released by then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of the Obama Administration.
"I have determined that the best reading of Title VII' s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status," wrote Holder in late 2014.
"The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination 'because of ... sex' includes discrimination because an employee's gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex."
The memo specifically noted that the term "sex" as used in Title VII corresponds with the traditional meaning of "biologically male or female."
"Congress has confirmed this ordinary meaning by expressly prohibiting, in several other statutes, 'gender identity' discrimination, which Congress lists in addition to, rather than within, prohibitions on discrimination based on 'sex' or 'gender,'" noted the Oct. 4 memo.
"Title VII is not properly construed to proscribe employment practices (such as sex-specific bathrooms) that take account of the sex of employees but do not impose different burdens on similarly situated members of each sex ..."