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Championing gay rights at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM

The nearly $1.2 million jury verdict Monday for a transgender professor in Oklahoma followed a years-long battle in which the U.S. Justice Department—once a plaintiff in the case—retreated from the dispute in the Trump administration, highlighting the increasingly complex landscape for gender identity discrimination complaints.

Just a few years ago, the Eric Holder-led Justice Department said plaintiff Rachel Tudor’s case against her employer Southeastern Oklahoma State University would “send a clear message” about eliminating sex and gender-identity discrimination. Main Justice’s participation in the case followed Holder’s guidance that said federal civil rights laws protect transgender employees.


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“We will not allow unfair biases and unjust prejudices to prevent transgender Americans from reaching their full potential as workers and as citizens,” Holder said in a statement announcing the case in 2015. “And we will continue to work tirelessly, using every legal tool available, to ensure that transgender individuals are guaranteed the rights and protections that all Americans deserve.”

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