Transgender rights advocacy group the National Center for Transgender Equality has hired progressive lobbying firm Mercury Media LLC to advocate on behalf of a spate of civil liberties–related legislative issues currently being debated on Capitol Hill.
NCTE is the country’s leading social justice advocacy group dedicated to policy matters affecting transgender people. The D.C.-based nonprofit, which was founded in 2003, focuses on employment discrimination, fair housing, identity documents, hate crimes, criminal justice reform and healthcare access.
In 2017, NCTE launched affiliated organization the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that endorses political candidates and provides resources for transgender voters.
The NCTE Action Fund has retained Mercury to lobby in response to President Trump’s restrictions on transgender personnel serving in the armed forces. The D.C. Court of Appeals in January ruled in favor of Trump’s policy after a federal judge had initially blocked it on the grounds that it violates transgender people’s constitutional rights. Federal judges in three other cases have issued injunctions temporarily blocking the administration from implementing the policy.
Trump’s policy would allow trans individuals currently serving to remain, but bars new transgender recruits who seek to receive sex-reassignment surgery from serving.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to review the matter.
Mercury will also advocate on behalf of the Equality Act (H.R.2282). That bill, which was first introduced in 2015 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public spaces and federally funded programs. The federal government doesn’t currently have any laws specifically protecting transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare or adoption. While the Civil Rights Act currently prohibits discrimination based on sex, it defines sex on a biologically male or female basis and therefore doesn’t explicitly extend non-discrimination protections based on gender identity. That bill is expected to be taken up by the 116th Congress.
Finally, Mercury will communicate NCTE’s issues with the Real ID Act, which updated federal security standards for identification documents such as driver’s licenses, requiring state DMVs to share their residents’ documents in an interstate, electronically-accessible database, potentially allowing others to “out” transgender people.
Mercury Media bills itself as a “tailor-made advocacy and communications” shop “for progressives who want to change the world.” The consulting firm, which was founded last year, maintains offices in Louisiana and Washington D.C. and counts the ACLU and the Center for Secure and Modern Elections as clients.