BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: ACLU has announced that it is suing the Trump administration to block the new rules allowing employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control.
Advocates for the rights of women and LGBT people have quickly condemned a move by the Trump administration that will make it infinitely easier to get away with discriminating by claiming that having to treat people fairly violates their religious liberty.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today (Friday, Oct. 6) “issued a sweeping directive to agencies to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are being violated,” according to an Associated Press report posted by Refinery29.com.
The directive “effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.” Claiming that your religious freedom would be enough to override concerns that someone is violating the civil rights and anti-discrimination protections LGBT people and women. Experts on religious liberty are saying Sessions’ “guidance” will mostly likely prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.
Basically, Sessions has declared that religious organizations can hire or fire based on religious beliefs, and that the government is infringing on someone’s religious liberty by “banning an aspect of their practice or by forcing them to take an action that contradicts their faith.” For instance, requiring employers to provide contraceptives to their workers “substantially burdens their religious practice.”
Also on Friday, Health and Human Services allowed employers with religious objections to opt out of the birth control coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act, and on Thursday Sessions issued a guidance declaring that Title XII does not include protections for transgender people, reversing policies put in place by the Obama administration.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, declared that the guidance “won’t hold up in court.”
Carey added, “Don’t be fooled; this guidance isn’t meant to protect people of faith. A majority of people of faith are opposed to all forms of discrimination and oppression. … This guidance is meant to provide a legal basis for discrimination to anyone who is seeking one. This means that under the guise of faith, a bigot would be cast as a victim in need of protections. The guidance is meant to ‘protect’ the anti-LGBTQ child welfare worker who is opposed to placing young people in foster care with a lesbian couple. It is meant to ‘protect’ the transphobic shelter worker who refuses to give a transgender person a place to sleep for the night. It’s meant to ‘protect’ the anti-Semitic restaurant owner who doesn’t want to serve a Jewish customer. It’s meant to ‘protect’ the pharmacist who wants to make decisions for others and refuses to administer birth control. The list goes on.
“This guidance won’t stand because we won’t stand for it.”
“This discrimination is not an American value. We must respond loud and clear,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, urging people to contact the White House and the DOJ to express their opposition. “This license to discriminate is a stark reminder that states must do all they can to protect LGBTQ people by passing comprehensive nondiscrimination laws.”