Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III permits employers to discriminate against transgender employees

Frederick Owens
October 8, 2017

In a lengthy memorandum released to all administrative agencies and executive departments on Friday, Attorney General and noted safe space advocate Jeff Sessions solemnly reiterated the importance of this country's "foundational principle" of "religious liberty".

Sessions' assertion that "every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith" is, on its face, an innocuous-sounding statement with which anyone who possesses a pocket Constitution would have a tough time disagreeing.

"The fact that the ADF has confirmed it has participated in a listening session is further proof that extremists have infiltrated the highest echelons of power in this administration, even the Attorney General who is tasked with protecting the civil rights of all Americans", Dinielli told ABC News.

Sessions' directive, obtained by BuzzFeed News, says, "Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status".

But key portions of the memos should be troubling to proponents of LGBT rights.

He instructed the US attorneys to "implement an enhanced violent crime reduction program that incorporates the lessons learned since the original program's launch in 2001 and leverages new strategies to help turn the tide against violent crime".

Although the memo asserts the change won't enable anti-LGBT discrimination under the law, that language is found no where as a limiting principle in the memos themselves. Stipulating that RFRA applies to disputes related to conferring benefits to others is nothing short of the same license to discriminate from Indiana's legislation.

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Under the new policy, a claim of violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns about civil rights for LGBTI people. But critics say the guidance could undermine protections for the LGBT community. Courts have repeatedly ruled that transgender people are protected by sex discrimination laws in employment, education, housing and healthcare.

However, Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, praised the action. But the 17-page appendix setting forth the DOJ's analysis of federal "religious liberty" law devotes just one short paragraph to the Establishment Clause.

Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation, said the latest memo was a "an attack on the values of freedom and fairness that make this nation great".

The new DOJ memo is "an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump's pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters", the AP reports, saying it "effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held".

Trump's Justice Department appeared in federal court Tuesday to argue that employers should be able to fire people because they are gay.

The legal analysis was unveiled as the Trump administration is considering or pursuing a series of moves that could broaden the rights of the religious, including allowing churches more latitude to enter political campaigns without jeopardizing their tax exemptions and permitting religious institutions to receive more types of disaster relief funds.

In September, both Trump and Pence tweeted their support for Roy Moore, the newly nominated Republican candidate for senator from Alabama, who said in 2005 that "homosexual conduct should be illegal". The message of today's guidance is that these and other targets have few if any legal rights that their antagonists need to respect. On Friday, the Trump administration issued a rule - which the ACLU said it would sue over - allowing a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives on religious or moral grounds.

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