Regardless of federal changes, OR law still protects transgender people's civil rights

"This guidance does not resolve any specific cases; it offers guidance on existing protections for religious liberty in federal law", the Justice Department said in a statement. "Federal statutes, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, support that protection, broadly defining the exercise of religion to encompass all aspects of observance and practice, whether or not central to, or required by a particular religious faith".

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said while the guidance does not change any laws or enact new rules, it forecasts the stance the Trump administration will take in ongoing or future litigation.

The Human Rights Council issued a strongly worded statement in response, arguing that the new directive constituted a "license to discriminate" with painful consequences for the LGBTQ community.

Also on Friday, the Department of Justice announced a religious freedom guidance that was ordered by President Trump in his May 4 executive order on religious freedom.

The government also may not condition the provision of grant money or contracts on the relinquishment of certain religious characteristics or hiring practices. The guidance mirrors Christian fundamentalist request for the freedom to discriminate. A claim of a violation of religious freedom could undercut anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and other minorities or protected classes. Under this initiative, OCDETF provides "seed money" to locally-focused gang investigations, giving state, local, and tribal investigators and prosecutors the resources and tools needed to identify connections between lower-level gangs and national-level drug trafficking organizations.

Sessions quoted President Trump saying his administration "will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore". Not only does it allow discrimination in the name of religion, it also treats the separation of church and state as a mere afterthought.

The document goes on to state that religious liberty extends not only to persons, but to organizations, and that religious freedom is not surrendered when an individual participates in the marketplace or interacts with government - two key points argued in the HHS mandate debate over the last six years.

The White House said later that Trump doesn't agree (paywall) with Moore's position on homosexuality, but that's hard to tell from the administration's actions.

Furthermore, the memo clarifies, religious employers are entitled to limit employment to people whose beliefs and conduct adhere to their religious precepts.

"This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump's cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families".

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.

The right to free exercise of one's faith is good and important and valuable, sure, but in this context, the interpretation of that right has serious consequences for other rights, too.

When news dropped that the May executive order was coming, it was initially thought that it would be the same order that leaked in February.

"It's time for Sessions to stop using the Justice Department as a tool for division and discrimination". The memo comes a day after Sessions rescinded a policy protecting transgender people from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under the interim final rules released Friday, non-profits, small businesses, and even some publicly-traded companies can apply for a religious exemption to the mandate, if they establish that complying with the mandate would violate their religious beliefs.

  • Rogelio Becker