Trump-Pence administration unleashes sweeping anti-LGBTQ ‘License to Discriminate Guidance’Around the Nation, Breaking News, Top Highlights Friday, October 6th, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. — United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance today, which invites taxpayer funded federal agencies, government employees, and government contractors to legally discriminate as long as they cite a religious belief as the reason for doing it. This guidance follows the anti-LGBTQ executive order signed by President Trump – which could ultimately allow a person to use so-called “religious exemptions” to discriminate against the LGBTQ community at the workplace, in housing, in public accommodations across the nation, and even in marriage equality. Today’s guidance bears a striking resemblance to some of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), an anti-LGBTQ measure Mike Pence signed into law when he was Indiana’s governor in 2015.
RFRA was backed by local anti-LGBTQ groups and had the sole intent to give Hoosiers permission to discriminate LGBTQ people at work, in housing access, and in other areas of public accommodation, including hospitals, across Indiana. Now, multiple reports indicate that Mike Pence has become the chief architect for this and other social issues within this administration, including its anti-LGBTQ agenda that has harmed the community since Day One of the Trump Presidency.
“Today’s guidance by Jeff Sessions proves this Administration will do anything possible to categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. “Freedom of religion is paramount to our nation’s success, but does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate. Nothing could be more un-American and unholy than using religion to justify harm and discrimination to others.”
This guidance reveals the urgent need for a comprehensive non-discrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity at the federal level. The guidance and executive orders come after a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) showed how a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBTQ discriminatory laws, also known as so-called “religious exemption” laws. This is in complete contradiction to the efforts by anti-LGBTQ activists like the Trump Administration to issue such orders.
The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus expressed outrage over President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice guidance declaring a policy that government agencies, private businesses, and other entities have a right to discriminate against LGBT people.
“This guidance is a clear attack on the rights of LGBT community and may allow federal employees, contractors, grantees and other businesses to deny employment or services to LGBT people,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Executive Director Roddy Flynn. “Though its obvious intent is obscured by flowery language of ‘religious liberty,’ this guidance is as broad as it is menacing. It portends to give a widespread, state-sanctioned, tax-payer funded license to discriminate to anyone who claims a religious motivation for wanting to discriminate.”
“Yesterday, the Trump Administration falsely argued that civil rights laws do not protect transgender Americans from employment discrimination,” said Flynn. “Today, they are attempting to undermine every pro-equality law on the books. Any last vestiges of hope that this President would be any kind of protector or friend to the LGBT community are long gone.”
“Today the Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way.”
“It’s unconscionable that the Trump-Pence administration also today encouraged employers to exert control over the essential health care decisions of their employees,” continued Griffin. “The rule change on contraception will undoubtedly limit access to vitally important care that women and so many in the LGBTQ community rely on every day. We each deserve to have the freedom to live and plan our lives with dignity, and this administration’s reckless efforts to undermine the health care of millions of Americans must be stopped.”
In May, Donald Trump signed an order that threatened to exacerbate anti-LGBTQ discrimination by laying the groundwork for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to implement the license to discriminate announced today. Already, more than 50 percent of Americans live in an area of the U.S. where LGBTQ people are at risk being fired, evicted, or denied services because of who they are — and two-thirds of LGBTQ people report having faced such discrimination in their lives.
A preliminary analysis of the Trump-Pence administration’s license to discriminate indicates that LGBTQ people and women will be at risk in some of the following ways:
- A Social Security Administration employee could refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse
- A federal contractor could refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, including in emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts
- Organizations that had previously been prohibited from requiring all of their employees from following the tenets of the organization’s faith could now possibly discriminate against LGBTQ people in the provision of benefits and overall employment status
- Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, could refuse to provide services to LGBTQ children in crisis, or to place adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple simply because of who they are
The guidance instructs federal government attorneys on how to handle matters before them and instructs federal agencies to reconsider current and future regulations in light of this license to discriminate. It’s important to note this Department of Justice interpretation of existing federal law is not consistent in the way that federal courts have interpreted these issues and are subject to legal challenges.
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