U.S. District Judge James Robinson ruled that the Library of Congress discriminated against Diane Schroer of Alexandria, Va., by not giving her the job after the former David Schroer disclosed he would start becoming Diane before beginning the new job.
"The evidence establishes that the Library was enthusiastic about hiring David Schroer - until she disclosed her transsexuality," Robinson wrote in his decision. "The Library revoked the offer when it learned that a man named David intended to become, legally, culturally, and physically, a woman named Diane. This was discrimination 'because of . . . sex."'
Advocates called the ruling groundbreaking because a federal judge has now ruled that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law.
"The court got it exactly right, sending a loud and clear message to employers everywhere: if you fire or refused to hire someone for transitioning, you are guilty of sex discrimination and may well find yourself liable," said Sharon McGowan, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who helped with the case.
The Justice Department is reviewing the judge's ruling, spokesman Charles Miller said.
Schroer sued in 2005 alleging sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.
"It is especially gratifying that the court has ruled that discriminating against someone for transitioning is illegal," Schroer said after hearing about the decision.
The Library of Congress and the Justice Department argued that discrimination because of transsexuality was not illegal sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.
But Robinson disagreed. "The Library's refusal to hire Schroer after being advised that she planned to change her anatomical sex by undergoing sex reassignment surgery was literally discrimination 'because of . . . sex,"' the judge wrote.
Schroer said in the Army she was director of the classified group that tracked and targeted terrorists, and she briefed high-level officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney. After retiring from the military, David Schroer interviewed for the Congressional Research Service job at the Library of Congress and got an offer in December 2004.
Schroer said during a lunch with Charlotte Preece, a Library of Congress official, he explained the upcoming medical transition to become a woman. Schroer testified Preece called the next day and said the position would not be a "good fit".
The judge will decide on the penalties in the case later.