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U.S. companies are pledging support for transgender people's legal rights amid a potential policy change by the Trump Administration that would rollback protections.

By mid-November, 176 companies had signed the Business Statement for Transgender Equality, which states their support for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people, Fortune reports. Collectively, those companies employ seven million workers and have annual revenue totaling more than $3.2 trillion. A more recent count of signatories as of January 13 listed 239 companies.

"Recognizing that diversity and inclusion are good for business, and that discrimination imposes enormous productivity costs (and exerts undue burdens), hundreds of companies, including the undersigned, have continued to expand inclusion for transgender people across corporate America," according to the Business Statement for Transgender Equality. "Currently more than 80% of the Fortune 500 have clear gender identity protections; two-thirds have transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage; hundreds have LGBTQ+ and Allies business resource groups and internal training efforts."

The statement came after The New York Times published an article in October warning that the Trump administration was considering defining gender as strictly biological. This would threaten federal protections that transgender people gained under the Obama administration.

The New York Times had obtained a memo laying out an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to create a legal definition under Title IX, which pertains to the federal civil rights law banning gender discrimination in education programs that get financial assistance from the government.

"Sex means a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth," the memo reads. "The sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person's sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence."

About 1.4 million Americans choose to recognize themselves as a gender other than how they were biologically identified, but this new definition would erase this federal recognition.

"Transgender people are frightened," says Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. "At every step where the administration has had the choice, they've opted to turn their back on transgender people."

Eighty-three percent of Fortune 500 firms prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, while 91% prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The growing coalition of businesses, including giants Google, Amazon, Nike, Microsoft, Apple, Coke and Pepsi, have come out against efforts to eliminate transgender rights, Law.com reports.

"We're proud that the business community is raising its voice to defend some of the most vulnerable members of our society and helping to fill the leadership vacuum created by the federal government," says Todd Sears, founder and principal of Out Leadership.

Last modified on Saturday, 19 January 2019
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