GLAAD denounces Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement of a ‘Religious Liberty’ Task Force

GLAAD today denounced Attorney General Sessions’ announcement of his new Religious Liberty Task Force at the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Summit. As stated by Sessions, the group’s purpose is to ensure that the Justice Department upholds the administration’s guidance for religious exemptions, which he released in October.

“Though freedom of religion is a core American value, religious exemptions from adhering to non-discrimination protections are not,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “Sessions’ announcement today is yet another example of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda as they seek to weave protections for those seeking anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions into the government.”

Sessions claimed that the goal of this task force is to accommodate people of faith, but his explanation of its purpose and his extensive anti-LGBTQ record suggest otherwise. Sessions has a long history of defending the use of “religious exemptions” to discriminate against LGBTQ people and opposing non-discrimination protections for the community. In his announcement, Sessions called attention to legal battles such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom argued that Jack Phillips had the right to discriminate against two men who were seeking a wedding cake based on their sexual orientation.

Today’s Religious Liberty Summit featured a number of panelists, each boasting a lengthy anti-LGBTQ record. Among those honored in Sessions’ speech were Kerri Kupec, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Jack Phillips, Senator Lankford, and Emilie Kao. Their anti-LGBTQ records are detailed below.

Today’s event comes on the heels of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted last week by the vehemently anti-LGBTQ Ambassador of International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The ministerial was largely focused on global issues that the administration frames as pertaining to religious freedom, but invited a multitude of prominent anti-LGBTQ figures to speak, including Tony Perkins, the most frequently booked anti-LGBTQ pundit and president of the anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council (FRC), and ADF CEO Michael Farris. ADF was intimately involved in the Religious Liberty Summit, issuing a press release a few days prior calling attention to the event.


Former ADF staffer and current DOJ Media Affairs Specialist Kerri Kupec’s anti-LGBTQ record:

--Condemned Yelp for supporting trans students, saying “Big business shouldn’t be advocating for boys to share the girls’ locker rooms and showers — and vice versa — in our public schools.”

--Claims transgender support “renders sex meaningless” and that money and politics are the reasons the Obama administration took a favorable stand

--Against all available evidence, argued that North Carolina’s infamous HB2 was “good for business” and “absolutely not” anti-transgender

President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’s anti-LGBTQ record:

--Referred to marriage equality as a “tragic error”

Jack Phillips’ anti-LGBTQ record:

--Plaintiff in the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case, which he narrowly won on grounds particular to his case

--Represented in this case by ADF, which consistently litigates for religious exemptions from non-discrimination laws

Senator James Lankford’s anti-LGBTQ record:

--Believes it is acceptable to fire people based on their sexual orientation

Heritage Foundation staffer Emilie Kao’s anti-LGBTQ record:

--In a piece called “The Left’s Assault on Adoption,” argued that adoption agencies have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ couples based on their sexual orientation