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Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty Is Direct Attack On LGBTQ+ US Citizens


Oct 22, 2013
Apologies if this news exists in another topic. Tried a search for "religious liberty", "Sessions", "license to discriminate" and multiple such combinations. Of course, I'm also half asleep so include that as a factor. But even if I did screw up, I feel this is news that needs twice the coverage.

PBS News Hour said:
Following yesterday’s move to allow businesses to opt out of contraception coverage in employee healthcare plans, the Trump administration is now directing federal agencies to promote what it calls religious liberty but what critics call discrimination.

“Politico’s” Josh Gerstein is covering this development and joins me now from Washington.

Let’s break this down. This is much broader than just contraception coverage we heard a lot about yesterday.

JOSH GERSTEIN, REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. You’re really talking about policies across the federal government. Some of them affecting things like even disaster relief. Some of the them affecting participation in elections, could also have an impact on LGBT rights, and the degree to which employers have to treat those members of the LGBT groups fairly.

So, it’s something that could potentially impact a wide array of government programs, particularly when the government delivers those services directly, when you’re talking about them using contractors, who either for-profit or nonprofit may now say they have religious concerns or moral concerns.

SREENIVASAN: Now, this isn’t proposed legislation. It’s going to have to make its way through Congress. It’s a memo. But memos coming from the attorney general carry a weight.

GERSTEIN: Right. It’s technically just legal guidance. It’s not formally a directive or a policy, but it has a vey robust view of what is religious freedom, and as you said earlier, many people believe that it could effectively become a license to discriminate. You might have people who, say, work in a Social Security office and are responsible for arranging benefits who might say, you know, for religious reasons, I don’t believe in gay marriage, so I don’t want to deal with any gay couples that may come into the office seeking services.

SREENIVASAN: How does this effect, possibly, law enforcement? I mean, religious profiling, for example, could be shielded by the guidance that’s being offered today.

GERSTEIN: I think it’s fair to say President Trump certainly as a candidate was pretty tough on Muslims, and there was a big focus on terrorism and blaming Muslims for terrorism. But under this policy, there seems to be a very broad, kind of base — broad-based exception, or broad latitude given to religious views, so you might have a sect of followers of some particular tenet that might be very violent or very extreme, and you could see them trying to claim some sort of liberty under this particular policy and say, look, you know, just because I’m an adherent of some particular sect that might have a violent ideology, I haven’t done anything or talked to anybody about anything, so you really should leave me alone.”

ACLU said:
The Department of Justice today issued religious-liberty guidelines for all federal agencies, and anyone who values equality for all and the separation of church and state should be deeply disturbed by the message the guidelines send.

Purporting to interpret religious-liberty protections in federal law, the guidance — a 25-page memo sent to all executive branch departments — doubles down on a distorted understanding of religious freedom. Not only does it allow discrimination in the name of religion, it also treats the separation of church and state as a mere afterthought.

One of the most troubling aspects of the guidance is its broad reading of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). You’ve probably heard of RFRA before: It’s the statute under which the Supreme Court ruled that some closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby could obtain a religious exemption from a federal regulation requiring employers who offer health insurance to provide birth control coverage for employees.

Today’s DOJ guidance requires federal agencies to interpret RFRA to go even further, declaring that “RFRA too might require an exemption or accommodation for religious organizations from antidiscrimination law . . . even where Congress has not expressly exempted religious organizations.” This could open the door for widespread, religious-based discrimination against women, LGBT people, people of minority faiths and races, and others in a variety of contexts.

For example, if the Justice Department’s suggested interpretation of RFRA is correct, a hotel could argue that providing service to Muslim or Jewish customers violates the owner’s faith and that the hotel should be exempt from complying with federal law barring such discrimination. And the funeral home currently arguing in federal court that it has a right to fire an employee because she’s transgender could have a free pass to discriminate because of its religious beliefs. The government’s compelling interest in enforcing these laws should mean the businesses lose their arguments — but the Department of Justice guidance suggests that the interest in ending discrimination against LGBT people isn’t actually all that important.

Human Rights Campaign said:
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.

Huffington Post said:
The Southern Poverty Law Center went a step further, vowing to “resist this guidance and all that it stands for” moving forward.

“As with so many of the Trump administration’s actions, this guidance is intended to and will encourage federal agencies to ignore the rights of vulnerable communities,” SPLC’s Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli wrote in an email statement. “But this administration cannot turn our collective hearts against our fellow Americans.”

The move came one day after news broke that Sessions had issued a directive indicating that the Justice Department would roll back 2014 guidance that included protections for trans government employees under Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

PBS News Hour
Human Rights Campaign
Huffington Post
Washington Post

Trump, Pence, Sessions and this entire administration have made it clear that the GOP is interested in stripping LGBTQ+ American citizens of their humanity. Not a few year ago we celebrated the end of marriage discrimination. Like happens so often, too many people thought the civil rights battle was over when one concession was made and that homophobes and transphobes who spent millions in money and man-hours trying to prevent even one LGBTQ+ friendly law would lay down their arms.

The ACLU , HRC, GLAAD, and a multitude of other civil liberties are more than devoted to resistance but they need people. Not just money, Not only contacting your local politicians but boots on the ground, people ready to show up and show out at demonstrations, protests, local events; in general being an active physical that people who want to resist this exist in droves. I created a topic a while ago that I update semi-regularly and will update again, where a multitude of other Gaffers & I compile resources for voting, contacting representative, supporting civil rights organizations & creating, organizing and/or finding groups locally or nationally that want to resist. The Trump Administration can and should be held accountable for trying to rob humanity from other Americans. Vote, participate and be outspoken about your support for the marginalized and they can be.


Junior Member
Jun 13, 2013
ACLU is on this by the article so I'm not that concerned yet pending a court judgement .