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Attorney General Issues 'License To Discriminate' Against Gays, Women

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Credit Archdiocese of Baltimore

The guidelines are seen as potentially undermining protections for LGBTI people since religious freedom is often used as a justification for LGBTI discrimination.

Regarding its application to federal contracts, the guidance could influence cases where religious charities are in danger of losing federal contracts due to their employment practices or their religious mission.

In essence, it says that religious rights trump civil rights.

"Today's guidance by Jeff Sessions proves this administration will do anything possible to categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law", Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBT advocacy group GLADD, said in a statement.

"This is an attempt by the administration to pressure agencies to overlook concerns about discrimination against vulnerable communities", said Camilla Taylor, senior counsel at Lambda Legal.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law, according to a memo on Wednesday sent to agency heads and US attorneys.

The SPLC said ADF "works to develop "religious liberty" legislation and case law that will allow the denial of good and services to LGBT people on the basis of relgion" and "has supported the recminalization of homosexuality in the USA and criminalization overseas".

The guidance also stresses that individuals and organizations don't give up their rights to religious liberty protections under the law simply because of their employment status or their affiliation with any level government.

That background memo insists the move 'does not authorize anyone to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity in violation of federal law or change existing federal and state protections'.

Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with the government. Although the executive order said nothing about LGBT issues, many feared handing that authority to Sessions would enable to him direct the government to discriminate against LGBT people.

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.

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". In fact, the Trump Administration has rolled back a measure that requires employer health insurance policies to cover birth control pill.

However, the legal memo suggests that the government's legal authority to forbid racial discrimination may not be as strong as its authority to target other forms of discrimination, such as bias against women or LGBT individuals.

When the two tested positive for a Schedule I drug (peyote), they were fired from their jobs and denied unemployment benefits.

"This guidance will help protect families like the Vander Boons in MI who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government".

"Supreme Court has held that the government's interest in addressing sexual-orientation discrimination is not sufficiently compelling to justify an infringement on the expressive association rights of a private organization". Well, it could try, but I predict the courts are not interested in reconsidering the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage recognition and the government would lose. Agencies like the State Department, where many employees have historically been reticent to talk about the role religion in worldwide problems, could be affected by this, Destro said.