Trump picks socially conservative Christians as the winnersLatest Issue, Trans Progressive Thursday, October 12th, 2017
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Friday, Oct. 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum entitled “Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty.” The document is an official, federal argument for exercising religion in the marketplace, in the public square and in interacting with the federal government.
For example, Principle 2 of the memorandum states, “The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or not to act in accordance with one’s religious beliefs,” and it’s an argument that’s been used by people in and out of government who don’t wish to provide their services to LGBT community members due to their socially conservative, Christian faith. Principle 3 states that “freedom of religion extends to persons and organizations”; Principle 10 states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening any aspect of religious observance or practice, unless imposition of that burden on a particular religious adherent satisfies strict scrutiny.” LGBTQ protections have not, to this point, been subject to a strict scrutiny standard.
In the section entitled “Guidance for Implementing Religious Liberty Principles,” the memorandum outlines how religious beliefs – religious liberty – must be taken into strong consideration when agencies engaged in rulemaking are making rules, regulations and policies. For agencies engaged in enforcement actions, “agencies may not target or single out religious organizations or religious conduct for disadvantageous treatment in enforcement priorities or actions.” Agencies engaged in contracting and distribution of grants “must not discriminate against religious organizations in their contracting or grant-making activities. Religious organizations should be given the opportunity to compete for government grants or contracts and participate in government programs on an equal basis with nonreligious organizations.”
In my opinion, it turns religious belief from a shield to a sword. Socially conservative, Christian people and organizations will have the blessing of the federal government to actively discriminate against LGBT community members.
This applies directly to me as a disabled veteran.
One of the consequences of this memorandum’s handing of the religious sword to socially conservative, Christian federal employees is that federal employees of the Veterans Administration (VA) don’t have to provide me service or health care if they express a religious objection to serving me as a transgender person.
It’s at the intersection of being disabled, transgender and a veteran that puts me at risk of being denied adequate care at the VA. For example, if in an emergency a VA employee refuses to help me because I’m transgender, it could delay appropriate health care. And if delay of emergency health care because one is transgender sounds extreme, the story of Tyra Hunter not receiving health care from Washington, D.C. paramedics because she was transgender has not been forgotten by quite a number of transgender people.
But more likely it would be an appointment staffer who won’t schedule an appointment for transgender specific treatment; a staffer who intentionally misgenders me; a staffer who says they have a religious objection to me using a women’s restroom in the VA facility because they don’t believe it’s possible to change genders.
I know some of my peers in the transgender community will face discrimination by the federal government soon. For example, some soon will go to Social Security offices and find clerks who won’t process their name and gender changes because they’re transgender. They’ll likely get another clerk, no doubt, but they’ll know they’re treated differently than everyone else because they’re transgender.
In the picking of winners and losers, as of Oct. 6 the Trump administration picked socially conservative Christians as the winners over LGBT community members. Socially conservative Christians are now free to discriminate against LGBT community members in the federal arena with impunity.
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