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Attorney General Issues “Religious Freedoms” Guidance Which Undermines LGBT Protections

Attorney General Jeff Session

Donald Trump promised his evangelical/religious supporters he would work to undercut LGBT protections and today his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, issued new guidance to agencies that will allow a simple claim of a violation of religious freedom to justify LGBT discrimination.

From the AP:

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump’s pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.

This new guidance comes a day after Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy protecting transgender people from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

More from the Washington Blade:

Key portions of the memos should be troubling to proponents of LGBT rights. The memo to agencies allows individuals to act or abstain from action according to their religious beliefs and prohibits the government from targeting religious individuals and organizations for acting on those beliefs.

Although the memo asserts the change won’t enable anti-LGBT discrimination under the law, that language is found nowhere as a limiting principle in the memos themselves. That assurance is left out in important passages asserting the primacy of religious freedom that could be construed to allow anti-LGBT discrimination.

Under the principles of the guidance, for example, a Social Security administrator charged with processing benefits applications could see an application for same-sex spousal benefits and refuse to process that application for religious reasons.

From the Human Rights Campaign:

“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 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.”

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