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Transgender protection rollback sparks opposition from tech

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that it would roll back federal protections for transgender citizens and require states and local school boards to decide how (or, more accurately, whether) they would enforce these people’s civil rights. Given that Silicon Valley tech companies routinely portray themselves as paragons of diversity and tolerance, these companies would surely be equally incensed at the government’s current attempts to regulate where children can pee. However, the responses so far have failed to directly address the president’s recent actions, instead generally relying on passive statements that extol their valuation of diversity and inclusion.

When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson replied “We’ve long advocated for policies that provide equal rights and treatment for all. We’re deeply concerned to see a roll-back in transgender students’ rights.”

Facebook, which gently chastised the Trump administration over its immigration ban, told us that it “is a strong supporter of equality. We stand for ensuring equal rights for everyone, including transgender students, and will continue to advocate for more rights instead of fewer.”

AirBnb, which vowed to help 100,000 people stranded by the Republicans’ immigration ban, simply pointed us to a recent tweet by Chris Lehane, the company’s head of policy.

Similarly, PayPal’s CEO, Dan Schulman provided this stock response, despite cancelling the construction of a 400-job Ops Center in North Carolina following the passage of HB2.

PayPal is committed to preserving human rights and advancing the principles of inclusion and equality that are at the core of our values. We seek to defend against discrimination and actions that violate our values, and we work with communities, regulators, and governments around the world to foster inclusion, understanding and empower the best of human potential.

An IBM spokesperson simply noted that “IBM has had an explicit policy of non-discrimination based on gender identity or expression since 2002, and we are opposed to discrimination in all its forms, including any policies that discriminate based on gender identity in education.” The company was one of hundreds that signed a letter disavowing the government’s immigration ban.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich posted this tweet:

Finally, a GitHub spokesperson told Engadget,

GitHub is dedicated to the creation of safe, inclusive spaces and communities–both in the digital world, and in the real world. We are committed to supporting our community including the transgender community and enabling others to support as well. For those looking for resources, or a way to contribute, Refuge Restrooms is an open source project being built on our platform to index safe restrooms for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals.

We also reached out to Apple but did not hear back. However the company did tell Axion yesterday, “Apple believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and discrimination. We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals. We disagree with any effort to limit or rescind their rights and protections.”

We also contacted Twitter for comment as well as Lionsgate films, the NBA and NCAA — all of whom were vocal opponents of the HB2 legislation — but have yet to hear back as of the time of this post’s publication.

These statements are noticeably less forceful than those following the passage of HB2 in North Carolina, a law that required people to use the restroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in government buildings. In the wake of that controversy, everyone from the NCAA to Bruce Springsteen, PayPal to Apple vowed to boycott the the state.

There is little indication that these companies, aside from GitHub, have plans to take proactive steps in response to this announcement. Granted, pushing back against a piece of state legislation is more straightforward than taking on a White House announcement regarding the interpretation of an existing law. It’s one thing to boycott the state of North Carolina but another entirely when the federal government itself decides to take a laissez faire approach to civil rights.

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Ms. A. C. Kennedy
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