Posted by Audiegrl
Justice Dept. Seeks Action vs. Gay Discrimination
Associated Press/Devlin Barrett—The Obama administration’s point man on civil rights said Wednesday he will seek to fight discrimination against gays, an area in which the Justice Department has had only a small role in the past.
Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division, said pending legislation in Congress will allow the department to attack discrimination against lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, a group often referred to by the acronym LGBT.
That would be new territory for the division that has historically gone after discrimination based on race, gender or religion. It would also be a major shift from the division’s work during the Bush administration, which opposed expansion of the federal hate crimes law to prosecute those who attack gays.
Perez on Wednesday he gave his first speech to division employees, saying the division must be transformed “so that we are capable of tackling the civil rights challenges of the 21st century,” include issues not historically addressed by the department.
“We must fight for fairness and basic equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters who so frequently are being left in the shadows,” he said, and to “ensure that there’s a level playing field in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are judged by the content of their character.”
Allison Herwitt, legislative director for Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group, called Perez’s words “fantastic.”
“What’s so different between this administration and the last is that we have people who want to have these protections in place and to enforce these protections, and you have the top of the Civil Rights Division willing to openly talk about these protections,” said Herwitt.