DOJ Reverses Stance On Transgender Workplace Protections

A bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic

A bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic

In a memorandum addressed to all DOJ department heads and United States attorneys, Attorney General Jeff Session expressed his agenda to implement federal Law protection for religious freedom.

Sessions had been instructed to "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law" by an executive order signed by President Trump in May.

The religious objection order lifts the burden of proof from religious objectors who claim their beliefs about marriage or other issues have not been upheld. News reports a Justice Department memo issued Wednesday states Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, does not protect transgender people.

Based on the Session memo earlier Friday the Trump administration issued a sweeping rollback of the ObamaCare contraception mandate, that requires almost all employers to ensure health insurance plans provide contraception at no out-of-pocket cost to employees or those on their plans.

"Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place", Sessions wrote.

"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 Griffin in a statement. This has been an important issue in the weeks after Hurricane Harvey with a group of Houston churches suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, claiming they had been denied disaster relief grants due to their religious status.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said: "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".

The Human Rights Campaign worries about some additional outcomes, though: That government officials themselves will be able to refuse to do their jobs when it comes to dealing with gay or transgender people (see: Kim Davis); and that federal contractors and faith-based organizations like hospitals would be able to discriminate against LGBT people and be able to refuse to provide services even in a crisis. Further, our nation has a longstanding bi-partisan commitment to religious liberty as evidenced by Senator Ted Kennedy's passionate advocacy for the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

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The Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU stated: "it is countenancing discrimination".

"President Trump and the Department of Justice are putting federal government agencies on notice: You will not only respect the freedom of every American to believe but live according to those beliefs", Perkins said in a statement. Sessions and the Department of Justice interpret it differently, taking "sex" to be discrimination between men and women.

Also included in the guidance is a section asserting religious organization acting on their beliefs shouldn't be penalized in competition for federal contracts. But critics say the guidance could undermine protections for the LGBT community.

The guidance is significant and establishes solid protections for religious freedom at the federal level, Professor Robert Destro of the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law told CNA. The principle was also at play earlier this year, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Lutheran church that was seeking to make safety improvements on its playground through a state reimbursement program.

Rachel Tiven, executive director of Lambda Legal, said in a statement her organization will ensure that religious freedom guidance doesn't allow anti-LGBT discrimination.

"Nothing could be more un-American and unholy than using religion to justify harm and discrimination to others".

Sessions also clarifies religious protections under Title VII in federal law governing employers, regarding (#16) not discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, including (#17) religious observance and practice.

- Reversing a policy recognizing that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination.

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