WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the turn of the year, the Obama administration, through the Office of Personnel Management, has started to list gender identity among the classes protected by federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies. By including gender identity as a protected class, the government has taken a significant step toward ending employment discrimination of LGBT people in the federal workforce.

Although a long-standing federal law prohibits any federal employment decisions that are not based on merit and another law prohibits sex discrimination, the new EEO policy marks the first time that gender identity discrimination has been explicitly banned from the federal workplace.

The policy is now on the federal government’s jobs website as a link from more than 20,000 current federal job listings. The American Civil Liberties Union praised the Obama administration for initiating the change in EEO policy and urged Congress to continue to work for further protections for LGBT Americans.

“This new policy is a very significant development,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The inclusion of gender identity in federal EEO policies is a very clear statement that the federal government will not discriminate based on gender identity. The Obama administration is demonstrating a strong commitment to an effective workforce by making clear that the federal government will not discriminate against transgender employees.”

The new EEO policy protects federal employees and applicants for federal employment, but federal legislation is still needed to protect millions of LGBT employees working for businesses and state and local governments. The U.S. House and Senate currently have versions of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) pending. ENDA, if passed, would be the first-ever federal ban on employment discrimination of LBGT Americans in the workplace.

“With this new policy and ENDA pending in both the House and Senate, we have an unprecedented opportunity to protect the rights of all Americans at work,” said Anders. “When Congress returns later this month, both houses should make passing ENDA a priority.”

Transwoman named gov’t advisor

Amanda Simpson, who has served on the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Board of Directors for the past three years, has been appointed by the Obama Administration as a Senior Technical Advisor to the Department of Commerce in the Bureau of Industry and Security.

“I’m truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. And at the same time, as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.”

Simpson brings considerable professional credentials to her new job. For 30 years, she has worked in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently serving as Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz. She holds degrees in physics, engineering and business administration along with an extensive flight background.

In 2004, the YWCA recognized her as one of their “Women on the Move” and in 2005 she was given the Arizona Human Rights Foundation Individual Award.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The long-standing ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants entering the country has been lifted. A regulation promulgated by the Obama administration last summer and finalized in November went into effect Jan. 4, removing HIV from the list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the U.S.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Securities and Exchange Commission has directed the Walt Disney Company to accept a shareholder resolution calling for a vote on inclusion of ex-gays in Disney’s sexual orientation policies and corporate diversity programs. Disney had opposed the ex-gay resolution.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D.C. Superior Court has rejected a proposed ballot initiative to roll back legislation recently passed by the D.C. Council extending marriage in the District to same-sex couples. The ruling concluded a challenge to the decision of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to bar the measure from the ballot.

TRENTON, N.J. — Lambda Legal is going back to court to seek marriage equality for same-sex couples after the New Jersey Senate failed to pass a marriage bill this session. In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gay couples must be treated equally. Lambda says the state’s civil union law does not meet that requirement.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) and out screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) have been elected to the Board of Directors of the Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT and questioning youth.

KAMPALA, Uganda — President Yoweri Museveni appears to be backing down from the international uproar over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death. According to media reports, he has already hinted that the death penalty component could be dropped due to the widespread condemnation. In the U.S., gay rights groups are calling on the White House and Congress to increase their pressure. : :

This article was published in the Jan. 23 — Feb. 5 print edition.

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.