News (USA)

Trump administration signals that it’ll look the other way on LGBTQ discrimination

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A new directive from the Department of Labor encourages the government to allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people more.

This past Friday, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) at the Department of Labor issued a directive that asked investigators to take religious exemptions into account.

While the directive doesn’t overturn the executive order that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors, it encourages the people who enforce the ban on discrimination to consider the “religious freedom” of federal contractors.

Specifically, the directive tells OFCCP staff:

They “cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices” and must “proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of … religious beliefs.”

They cannot “condition the availability of [opportunities] upon a recipient’s willingness to surrender his [or her] religiously impelled status.”

“[A] federal regulation’s restriction on the activities of a for-profit closely held corporation must comply with [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”

They must permit “faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for … [Federal] contracts.”

They must respect the right of “religious people and institutions … to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal Government.”

The Department of Labor has also removed information about protections from discrimination and how narrow the religious exemptions are.

“This is an attempt to encourage businesses to take taxpayer dollars and then fire people for being transgender,” said Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“The language of this directive is so broad and so vague because it is part of a long line of attempts by this administration to sow confusion and encourage any employer to act on their worst prejudices. No employer should be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to fire someone because of who they are.”

The directive cites three Supreme Court cases, including the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, as justification for the directive. While the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling did not legalize any form of discrimination, it invalidated a civil rights commission’s findings of discrimination because the commissioners weren’t, in the Supreme Court’s opinion, sufficiently respectful of Christianity.

Christian conservatives welcomed the directive.

“I commend the Trump administration and the Department of Labor for taking a strong stand in this new policy directive to protect the religious freedom of individuals and organizations under federal law and the U.S. Constitution,” said Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel. “People of faith should not have to set aside their sincerely held religious beliefs to appease others.”

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