Politics

Transgender Woman Said Lujan Grisham’s Office Discriminated Against Her

Says she was fired from her internship when it was learned she was transgender

A former intern said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., fired her for being transgender. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A former intern said she was fired from New Mexico Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office for being transgender.

Riley Del Rey told the Santa Fe New Mexican she was fired from the Democrat’s office almost three years ago and is speaking now because she has seen a number of stories about sexual harassment but transgender voices are missing.

Lujan Grisham, who is chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a candidate for New Mexico governor, said her office would not discriminate against anyone.

“Our office takes the rights of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community very seriously, and we are dumbfounded by any suggestion that we would discriminate against anyone for any reason,” spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

The New Mexico Democrat referred questions to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which she said hired Del Rey.

But while the institute confirmed she was an intern in 2015, it did not comment on the allegations.

“CHCI is an equal opportunity employer and treats all persons, whether LGBTQ or otherwise, equally,” it said in a statement.

Del Rey alleged her supervisors commented on her physical appearance, saying her heels were too high and her hemline was too short.

Del Rey said she did not disclose her gender identity during the application process but discussed the issue with a sympathetic lawmaker.

She said supervisors said the information caught them “off guard” and she was fired the same day.

This isn't the first time that the CHCI faced similar accusations. In 2011, Roll Call reported about the CHCI dismissing a transgender student three days before she would begin interning for then-Rep. Martin Heinrich.

At the time, Heinrich's communications director said his office was not aware of the circumstances surrounding the intern's dismissal and was not involved in the decision.

Heinrich is now a senator. 

Lujan Grisham’s office said she has a record of defending LGBT rights and has received training from the University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center.

Correction Dec. 13 11:21 a.m.| A previous version mischaracterized the dismissal of someone in Heinrich's office.

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