DOJ’s anti-LGBTQ “religious exemptions” guidance makes LGBTQ employees second-class citizens

Guidance could force LGBTQ federal workers back in closet to protect their own job security

Trump Administration’s sweeping guidance could have additional consequences to safety of LGBTQ Americans

NEW YORK – GLAAD, the world’s LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today condemned guidance issued this morning by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which invites taxpayer funded federal agencies, government employees, and government contractors to legally discriminate as long as they cite a religious belief as the reason for doing it. This guidance follows the anti-LGBTQ executive order signed by President Trump – which could ultimately allow a person to use so-called “religious exemptions” to discriminate against the LGBTQ community at the workplace, in housing, in public accommodations across the nation, and even in marriage equality. Today’s guidance bears a striking resemblance to some of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), an anti-LGBTQ measure Mike Pence signed into law when he was Indiana’s governor in 2015.

RFRA was backed by local anti-LGBTQ groups and had the sole intent to give Hoosiers permission to discriminate LGBTQ people at work, in housing access, and in other areas of public accommodation, including hospitals, across Indiana. Now, multiple reports indicate that Mike Pence has become the chief architect for this and other social issues within this administration, including its anti-LGBTQ agenda that has harmed the community since Day One of the Trump Presidency.

"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,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “Freedom of religion is paramount to our nation’s success but does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate. Nothing could be more un-American and unholy than using religion to justify harm and discrimination to others.”

This guidance reveals the urgent need for a comprehensive non-discrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity at the federal level. The guidance and executive orders come after a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) showed how a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBTQ discriminatory laws, also known as so-called “religious exemption” laws. This is in complete contradiction to the efforts by anti-LGBTQ activists like the Trump Administration to issue such orders.

Further, both orders follow Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ choice this summer to voluntarily issue a friend-of-the-court brief for a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that argues LGBTQ Americans are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This gives the greenlight for LGBTQ Americans to be openly targeted and discriminated against by employers, landlords, business owners, or other Americans simply for being LGBTQ. This also follows guidance issued yesterday that says transgender Americans are not classified as a protected class until the Civil Rights Act.

GLAAD warned about the possibility of additional anti-LGBTQ executive orders in May when President Trump issued his first “religious exemptions” executive order, which stopped just short of allowing rampant discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. GLAAD leaked a draft executive order last February that highlighted the Trump Administration’s attempt to issue an order that would allow any business or person to use so-called “religious exemptions” as an excuse to fire someone, reject a housing application, or deny a person a service – like medical care – just for being LGBTQ. 

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