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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 17, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 33
Trump OKs discrimination against LGBT employees
Section One
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Trump OKs discrimination against LGBT employees

Cancels Obama-era protections

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Trump administration has issued a new directive giving federal contractors free range to discriminate against their LGBT employees.

The August 10 memo reverses an executive order issued by Barack Obama prohibiting federal contractors - including most of the country's largest private-sector employers - from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Since there is no federal law banning discrimination against the LGBT community, Obama's executive order was one of the few federal protections for LGBT workers. The Trump administration is also working against the other major federal protection - the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruling that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Trump directive uses the recent US Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case to carve out a huge 'religious exemption' for anti-LGBT discrimination.

'Recent court decisions have addressed the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afforded religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the United States Constitution and federal law. See, e.g., Masterpiece Cakeshop),' the document states.

'Staff are instructed to take these legal developments into account in all their relevant activities, including when providing compliance assistance, processing complaints, and enforcing the requirements of [the previous executive order],' it continued, referring to Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs staffers. These are federal employees charged with enforcing contract provisions with companies that do business with the federal government.

'Staff should bear in mind that... 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.

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

David Stacy, the HRC's government affairs director, denounced the Trump directive.

'This is another attempt by the Trump-Pence administration to implement a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people by providing unsound guidance in implementing Obama-era regulations,' Stacy said in a statement.

'The erroneous application of the Supreme Court's narrow ruling in Masterpiece and recent Trump executive orders is meant to aggressively marginalize hardworking Americans because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

'The American people will not tolerate discrimination, and LGBTQ people will not be erased.'

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), added, 'This is an attempt to encourage businesses to take taxpayer dollars and then fire people for being transgender.

'Religious organizations have ample protections under federal law, but they are not allowed to use federal money to discriminate against people.

'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 NCTE also noted that the Department of Labor has erased LGBT-related FAQs from its website. The site previously said that religious contractors were not exempt from rules barring discrimination against an employee 'on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin,' but it no longer does.

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