U.S. NewsHuman Rights


New Footnote In Trade Deal Weakens LGBTQ Protections In US

After outcry from Republicans, a footnote was added to the USMCA that says the U.S.'s "existing federal agency policies" are sufficient protection.
Posted at 1:08 PM, Dec 05, 2018

The new trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico was modified before signing to change discrimination protections in the U.S. for LGBTQ workers.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, also known as USMCA, says each country must implement policies that "protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including with regard to sexual harassment)," "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."

However, dozens of Republican lawmakers weren't happy with that part of the deal, arguing that "a trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy." Weeks before the three countries signed the USMCA at the G20 summit, 46 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to scratch language that covers sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

A new footnote was then added that states the U.S.'s "existing federal agency policies" are sufficient protection for federal workers. Those existing policies are likely referring to an Obama-era executive order that gives legal protection to LGBTQ workers while working for federal contractors. 

The footnote also says the U.S. doesn't need to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to be compliant with the USMCA. Currently, that law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex and national origin." And although some experts have argued that law doesn't explicitly protect LGBTQ workers, in 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination against sexual orientation DOES fall under discrimination on the basis of sex in Title VII.

President and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLADD, Sarah Kate Ellis, said the footnote "effectively nullified" protections for LGBTQ workers. She said the move "squanders the United States' status as a leader in LGBTQ equality."