DOJ rescinds protections for transgender workers

A bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic

WASHINGTON | Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued sweeping guidance to executive branch agencies Friday on the Justice Department's interpretation of how the government should respect religious freedom, triggering an immediate backlash from civil liberties groups who asserted the nation's top law enforcement officer was trying to offer a license for discrimination.

It's actually not terribly clear, though, that this memo makes much of a difference in how the current Justice Department will tackle LGBT discrimination issues because of how it is already tackling LGBT issues.

ACLU has announced that it is suing the Trump administration to block the new rules allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control.

"The attempts by the previous administration to provide some protections were inadequate", said a senior HHS official of the Obama administration's efforts to provide workarounds for religious groups. Although the executive order said nothing about LGBT issues, many feared handing that authority to Sessions would enable to him direct the government to discriminate against LGBT people.

"It's time for Sessions to stop using the Justice Department as a tool for division and discrimination". Enacted in 1993, RFRA is one of the primary legislative pillars upon which religious freedom arguments have rested in the last two decades. The memorandum further stated the DOJ will take the position in all pending and future matters that Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status.

Religious liberty experts said they would have to see how the guidance would be applied by individual agencies, both in crafting regulations and deciding how to enforce them. Additionally, (#19) religious employers have the right to hire only individuals who agree with that religious faith, and (#20) the federal government may not require an organization to set aside any of its religious-liberty rights as a condition for getting any grant or benefit. That could conflict with former President Obama's 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, which President Trump said he'd uphold, and green-light anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors in other capacities, such as the denial of services.

Carey added, "Don't be fooled; this guidance isn't meant to protect people of faith".

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm, called it "a great day for religious freedom". Every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith.

But the justice department, led by Sessions, argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act - which outlaws discrimination based on a number of characteristics - does not provide any protections for gay people, despite outlawing sex-based discrimination.

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.

He outlined as examples that religious entities may not be excluded from secular aid programs-in reference to the June U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer-and may not be prohibited from distributing religious materials simply due to their content.

For example, Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the guidance could allow a religious employer to fire an employee who had a child out of wedlock or fire an employee who married a same-sex partner. Sessions explained while Title VII prohibits "sex-stereotypes", insofar as that sort of sex-based consideration causes disparate treatment between men and women, Title VII is not properly construed to proscribe employment practices that take into account the sex of employees, but do not impose different burdens on similarly situated members of each sex.

Additionally, in 2015 while Mike Pence was governor, in passed its own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, despite outcry from opponents who argued the bill could be used to legally discriminate against LGBTI people.

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