The Seattle-area escorts who said they would refuse to work for President Donald Trump’s administration said on Wednesday that they will fight efforts to strip them of their federal employment authorization cards.
The decision, which is a first in the country, comes after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation in February found that the Seattle-style escorts were not complying with the nation’s transgender nondiscrimination protections.
The Washington-based escort groups have argued that the government should not grant them federal status, which allows them to work on private or public projects without a license.
But in their lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, which includes Washington, D.C., the escort groups said they will challenge the federal government’s decision to strip the groups of their authorization cards and to seek their reinstatement in the future.
“The federal government is trying to deny the American people the right to work with their own bodies,” said Bethany Dickson, a Seattle-born escort who is also a founding partner at a Washington-area law firm that has handled trans issues.
In the lawsuit, the escort organizations argue that the Justice Department has misinterpreted the Obama administration’s guidance, which requires agencies to offer transgender applicants the right for them to use restrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
Their lawyers argued that federal employees have a constitutional right to serve and protect, and that the federal law barring discrimination against transgender people does not apply to federal contractors, such as the Seattle escorts.
The lawsuit also notes that the Trump Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has issued a statement saying that transgender Americans should be afforded the same protections as cisgender Americans.
At issue in the lawsuit are the Department of Justice guidance that defines a transgender person as someone who is “at least 18 years old but who is unable to identify with the sex assigned to them at birth.”
The guidance also says that a transgender individual is not entitled to receive the same federal benefits as cis-gender Americans who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, such for example by obtaining a driver’s license or a passport.
It says transgender individuals are eligible for certain job training programs.
The Seattle-trained escorts said they had been working for more than three decades.
They are not transgender, and the plaintiffs in the case are seeking their reinstatements in the next five years.
The lawsuit is part of a nationwide battle over the federal transgender nondisclosure rule, a policy designed to protect transgender people from discrimination by federal contractors.
The rule is part.of a national effort by advocates and business owners, who are demanding that Congress change the law that bars transgender people and people who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth from receiving federal nondiscriminatory employment protections.
The policy is based on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which defines a person as “any individual who is … subject to discrimination on the basis of their gender identity or expression.”
The plaintiffs argue that, as individuals, transgender people do not have a right to federal nondisclosures and that, therefore, the government cannot require them to be treated as transgender.
The Justice Department issued a similar statement in March saying that it was “not a party to this lawsuit,” but that the agency was considering the merits of the issue and that it would consider whether to take further action.
The Trump administration has also taken steps to roll back nondiscribility protections.
In May, the White House announced that it will take action to rollback nondiscrections on the transgender nondisfreement rule, which prohibits federal contractors from using Title VII-based nondiscribilty provisions in hiring, contracting and other business dealings with the government.
The Obama administration also rolled back nondisclusion protections for transgender people, as part of the executive order signed in February.
The transgender nondisdiscrimination rule was enacted in 2020 by the Obama White House.
It was designed to ensure that transgender people are protected from discrimination in employment and other federally funded services, including housing and health care, which often involve discrimination.