The nation’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group strongly condemned the Trump-Pence administration’s decision to carry out a sweeping “license to discriminate” that “puts millions of LGBTQ Americans at risk of discrimination, as well as release a new regulation that could deny millions of Americans access to critical contraceptive care previously guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping 25-page directive to federal agencies Friday on how to protect religious liberty in employment, contracting and programming as they execute federal laws, an order that is likely to undercut federal protections for LGBT people.
Under the new policy, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical supporters that he would protect religious liberties, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and others, reports NBC News.
“This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“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 Human Rights Campain (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.”
According to the HRC, a preliminary analysis of the 25-page directive “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.”