DOJ Reverses Stance On Transgender Workplace Protections

These religious exemptions could allow federal grantees and contractors to hire or fire anyone who didn't follow all of their religious teachings. Senators who care about civil rights must press Attorney General Sessions on this issue when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee in two weeks. "Except in the narrowest of circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law".

"I support religious freedom and the freedom of full equality for every American", Baldwin said in a statement.

"This memo contradicts what is already established legal precedent", said Stacey Long Simmons, Director of Advocacy and Action, National LGBTQ Task Force.

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions issued new guidance reversing the federal government's former position that gender identity is protected under Title VII.

Expand | Collapse (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. on September 5, 2017. In a memo to the nation's federal prosecutors, Sessions says the law bars discrimination between men and women but does not extend to gender identity.

Today's guidance also confirms that government can not interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. The administration's new guidance also downplays harm to innocent third parties by someone acting on their religious belief.

President Trump signed Executive Order 13798 on May 4 to declare the policy of the United States government regarding religious liberty under the U.S. Constitution and federal law, the first such order in American history.

The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one's religious beliefs. Seventeen years ago, the federal appellate court in Boston concluded that discrimination against a transgender person could violate law as a form of sex discrimination.

"We have seen public officials criticized for their religious beliefs, elected representatives who have called for a "religious test" for public office, and marketplace discrimination against religious people who own and run businesses according to the dictates of their individual consciences", noted Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Although much of the Religious Right's agenda is unpopular with the American people, and Congress would be wary of adopting it, the Trump administration has been acting to further the movement's ability to transform religious liberty from a shield into a sword. "They did not want to move forward because it could impact their ability to get other jobs and other employment".

"I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his "first priority" by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections", wrote Farris in a statement.

While the memo refers to protecting the rights of religious employers, it doesn't specify whether it's referring only to religious institutions such as churches and their charities or to businesses whose owners hold religious views against hiring certain people or baking a cake for a gay wedding, an issue now before the Supreme Court. It can be used for an organization refusing to offer birth control to their employees.

Sessions's letter states that "the Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals". As an example, it cites the Supreme Court's limited ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church striking down a state requirement that government funds for playground improvement not go directly to churches.

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