Transgender Fortune 500 companies and large business have adopted LGBT inclusive policies that include anti-discrimination, specialized training programs and other benefits. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Dozens of companies, including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co., pushed back against recent attempts by the Trump administration to reduce protections for transgender people under federal civil rights laws. They instead stressed the importance of equality in a public statement released Thursday.

The 56 companies include major financial institutions, tech companies and retail giants, among other household names, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank, IBM Corp. and American Airlines. The effort was organized by 14 LGBT advocacy groups, including Out Leadership and the Human Rights Campaign.

Related: 4 steps businesses can take to be inclusive of transgender employees

“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,” Todd Sears, founder and principal of Out Leadership, said in a statement.

The letter comes a week after the U.S. Justice Department told the U.S. Supreme Court that a transgender worker should not be guaranteed federal civil rights protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, veering from the position of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC sued a Michigan funeral home for firing Aimee Stephens, who had presented as a man for six years as funeral director before she came out as transgender to her bosses and co-workers.

The New York Times first reported plans to redefine “gender” under federal civil rights laws under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act to specify that gender refers to the sex a person is at birth. This proposal would effectively erase protections for transgender students.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has argued in trial and appeals courts against protections for both gender identity and sexual orientation under Title VII. Last year, the Justice Department, lining up against the EEOC, told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that federal civil rights protections do not extend to gay and lesbian employees.

The business group’s letter called for the millions of people who identify as transgender, gender nonbinary, or intersex “to be treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves” and calls “for respect and transparency in policy-making, and for equality under the law for transgender people.”

“We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations,” the letter continues. “We also fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex.”

The group notes that dozens of federal courts have upheld the rights of transgender people. At least five federal appeals courts, for instance, upheld protections of gender identity under Title VII. Those protections protect workers from discrimination against their employers.

Fortune 500 companies and large business have adopted LGBT inclusive policies that include anti-discrimination, specialized training programs and other benefits. 

The Supreme Court could consider how far to extend the scope of protections in the workplace, under Title VII, this term with the Stephens case, R.G.G. Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC, and two others from the Second and Eleventh circuits that focus on whether protections extend to sexual orientation.

Business groups and major companies have sided with the LGBT workers in the lower courts on these cases and others, pushing for equality and arguing that protections would be better for their bottom lines.

Yet a recent report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that nearly half of gay and transgender workers remain closeted at work, a statistic that has remained largely unchanged in the last decade. The group tracks LGBT policies at major companies across the country, and has found a record number of companies are adopting progressive policies for gay and transgender workers.

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