A group of 38 GOP lawmakers is protesting the inclusion of protections for LGBT workers in the newly negotiated U.S. trade proposal with Mexico and Canada.
The House GOP members are calling on Trump to drop language protecting workers from "discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity" from the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal, as first highlighted by Politico.
“A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy,” the lawmakers wrote in a Nov. 16 letter. “It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”
The new trade deal, which Trump reached with Mexican and Canadian leaders in October, currently includes a provision that protects against "sex discrimination" in the workplace, explicitly including discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" under that umbrella.
This is the first time such a provision has been included in a U.S. trade agreement, Politico reported. The language was reportedly the result of a push by progressive Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called it a "big win" for the LGBT community.
The Republican lawmakers, including some of the most conservatives members of the House, argue that "sex discrimination" has not been extended to include transgender people.
The Trump administration is split on this issue, Politico and The Washington Blade noted. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says civil rights laws protect trans workers, while the Justice Department has rolled back Obama-era protections for trans people.
The Friday letter cites a 2017 memo from the Justice Department that stated " 'sex' is ordinarily defined to mean biologically male or female."
"One wonders at the contradictory policy coming through [the U.S. Trade Representative] when other departments under your administration are working to come into alignment on [sexual orientation and gender identity] policy,” the letter states.
The U.S., alongside Mexico and Canada, are poised to sign the new NAFTA deal on Nov. 30 at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
"This is language that is going to cause a lot of people to reconsider their support of the trade agreement, and to the point that it may endanger the passage of the trade agreement unless something is done," Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE (R-Colo.) told Politico.
The Trump administration could seek to change the language, but it would likely be met with concerted pushback from Canada, according to Politico.
The conservatives in the letter cited a recent New York Times report that indicated the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from its legal definition of gender.
The letter refers to the controversial Times report as "encouraging."
Trans and LGBTQ advocacy organizations have unequivocally denounced the proposed change, saying a definition of gender that relies solely on biology would result in discrimination against trans and nonbinary individuals.
The Justice and Education Departments have been rolling back LGBT protections since Trump came into office. The departments have walked back guidelines that protected trans students and military members.
The 2016 National Transgender Discrimination Survey indicated that 26 percent of trans people lost their jobs due to transphobic bias and 50 percent reported being harassed on the job. The language in the new NAFTA deal would encourage trans workers to take action in response to that kind of discrimination.