WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In an unprecedented ruling last week, the Obama administration stated a federal law banning gender discrimination in the workplace also prohibits discrimination against a “transgender” person on the grounds of gender identity.

The decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was prompted by a complaint from a transgender man, Mia Macy, who says he was denied employment with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) because he was transitioning from his biological sex as a male to a woman at the time he applied.

Macy, a former police officer who is married to a female Army veteran, says that he was promised a job as a ballistics technician with the ATF and had already begun the hiring process when he informed the agency that he was in the process of becoming a female. He subsequently received notice that the position was no longer available due to budget cuts, but says he later discovered that someone else had been hired in his place.

In a controversial move, the EEOC ruled that officials at the ATF had violated the prohibition against gender-based discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by not hiring Macy.

Citing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that held that sex discrimination includes “discrimination based on a failure ‘to conform to socially constructed gender expectations,’” the Commission held that transgender females were “anatomical males whose outward behavior and inward identity [do] not meet social definitions of masculinity,” and that discrimination against them is therefore legally “actionable.”

The decision compares workplace discrimination against transgender people to an employer who finds out that a Christian employee has Muslim parents and fires the employee for not identifying with the same religion as his parents.

According to Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, the ruling was an intrusion on Congressional authority “to define what’s covered in the Civil Rights Act.”

“There have been literally dozens of attempts to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include transgender discrimination and each of those has failed uniformly,” he told LifeSiteNews. “It’s really an extraordinary power grab.”

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The decision builds on a handful of previous court decisions that applied a similar interpretation of Title VII, but the EEOC’s decision has now made this into a “broad policy,” Schowengerdt said. He added that there is reason to be concerned that the implications of this ruling could be far-reaching, affecting issues such as bathroom use and workplace dress code.

Reactions from the gay and lesbian community seem to lend more credence to these concerns. Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the ruling “very strong protection” for transgenders in comments to the homosexual publication Metro Weekly.

‘‘Title VII is a very protective statute, and transgender people being able to rely on that statute now is transformative,” Minter said.