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Large companies come out against federal government plans to change to legal definitions

Washington County's two largest companies have signed onto an international letter of support calling for respect for transgender rights in the United States.

Intel and Nike joined more than 50 other large corporations in a joint statement last week, following reports that federal officials are mulling over legal changes to gender definitions.

"Transgender people are our beloved family members and friends, and our valued team members," the companies wrote in a letter posted online. "What harms transgender people harms our companies."

The letters was co-signed by several large corporations, including Amazon, Bank of America, PepsiCo, Microsoft and others. Intel employs about 20,000 people at its four Hillsboro-area campuses and is Oregon's largest private employer. Nike employs about 12,000 at its world headquarters outside Beaverton.

The joint letter comes after The New York Times reported plans by the Department of Health and Human Services to more narrowly define gender as a biological condition determined at birth, which would roll-back recognition and protections of transgender people's civil rights.

"We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations," the corporations wrote.

The Obama administration had loosened the legal definition of gender for federal programs, but The Times reported that a new definition on gender would "essentially eradicate federal recognition" of 1.4 million people who recognize themselves by a gender other than the one they were born into.

Several gay rights and transgender groups have come out in opposition to the proposed changes.

In the letter, the corporations wrote that millions of people in America identify as either transgender, gender non-binary or intersex, and should be treated "with the respect and dignity everyone deserves."

"Courts have recognized that policies that force people into a binary gender definition determined by birth anatomy fail to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology."

According to the letter, more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have put in protections for gender identities into company policies. About two-thirds have incorporated transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage.

Intel and Nike have taken several political stands in the past few months. Nike has publically backed plans to stop Measure 105 on Tuesday's ballot, which called for repealing the state's so-called Sanctuary status. Last year, Intel and Nike denounced immigration bans by President Donald Trump, which stopped people from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the United States. Later that year, former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich quit President Donald Trump's manufacturing council after white supremacists killed a counter-protestor during a Virginia rally.

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