Critics Say 2 Memos From Sessions Attack LGBTQ Rights

08 October, 2017, 00:29 | Author: Ora Austin
  • Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Credit Archdiocese of Baltimore

Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised federal agencies to follow 20 principles of religious freedom, including a recognition that religious employers can discriminate in hiring, as he elaborated on an executive order President Donald Trump signed in May. The Justice Department and the EEOC took opposite sides in their respective amicus briefs as to whether sexual orientation should be considered sex discrimination under Title VII.

This guidance reverses and withdraws previous guidance by Attorney General Eric Holder in a December 15, 2014 memorandum in which Holder stated Title VII prohibits employers from using "sex-based considerations", such as gender identity, in employment decisions.

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That background memo insists the move 'does not authorize anyone to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity in violation of federal law or change existing federal and state protections'.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the administration's announcements Friday as clearly in line with Supreme Court precedent.

In crafting the policy guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) consulted extensively with "religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people", but not "specifically" with any LGBTQ rights organizations, Buzzfeed reported on Friday.

The Justice Department has already signaled it is giving a narrow interpretation to Title VII in an amicus brief submitted to a federal appeals court in July.

The Washington Blade notes Sessions issued three memos - one to administrative agencies, another to Justice Department attorneys, and one providing background.

"This is a conclusion of law, not policy", Sessions said, adding that the department will take this new position in all "pending and future matters".

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Trump's Justice Department appeared in federal court Tuesday to argue that employers should be able to fire people because they are gay.

Under the interim final rules released Friday, non-profits, small businesses, and even some publicly-traded companies can apply for a religious exemption to the mandate, if they establish that complying with the mandate would violate their religious beliefs.

"Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, [to] 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". From banning transgender servicemembers to dismantling protections for transgender students, this Administration has consistently and cruelly put prejudice and bigotry before the civil rights of the American people.

The memo is directed to all U.S. Attorneys and heads of federal agencies.

Numerous current conflicts in the religious sphere concern civil rights for lesbians, gays and transgender people _ for instance, whether religious organizations can refuse to employ people due to their sexual identification.

- Rescinding guidance protecting transgender students and replacing it with guidance that allows schools to discriminate against them.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), called the guidelines an 'all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities'. Foremost of those actions is the reinvigoration of "Project Safe Neighborhoods", a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.

"This license-to-discriminate memo invites illegal discrimination on a chilling new scale and attempts to open the door for carving certain communities, including transgender people, out of basic protections guaranteed by law", he said.

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