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This is how the Trump administration is weaponising ‘religious freedom’ to undermine LGBT+ rights

Nick Duffy May 20, 2020
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Trump administration has used the guise of religious freedom to critically undermine protections for LGBT+ people, a new report warns.

The report, backed by civil rights groups including the ACLU, warns that the Trump administration has “repeatedly undermined important civil rights protections” through a patchwork of changes to pre-existing regulations.

It details actions quietly taken across different government departments to carve last loopholes into federal regulations that had previously safeguarded people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Department of Health and Human Services, headed by Trump ally Alex Azar, is among those to have pushed forward regulations that would “dramatically expand the ability of health care institutions and workers” to refuse to provide services or information based on “religious or moral objections”.

Meanwhile, Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson has pursued a rule to allow federally-funded homeless shelters to reject transgender and gender nonconforming people based on “the shelter’s religious beliefs”.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Concerns have also been raised about changes in regulations at the Department of Labor, which has issued a proposed rule that would permit religious federal contractors to “discriminate in employment against anyone who does not follow the tenets of the employer’s faith, even if it leads to discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”.

The report also notes the well-chronicled efforts of the Department of Justice to undermine civil rights protections for LGBT+ people, filing court briefs siding with opponents of discrimination protections and arguing that it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

White House has worked to enforce discrimination against LGBT+ people ‘in the name of religious liberty’.

The report was compiled by the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, and the Movement Advancement Project.

The groups warned: “Since Trump’s inauguration, the administration has repeatedly undermined important civil rights protections, including by expanding religious exemptions.

“In the name of religious liberty, Trump and his allies have pursued a strategy to legalise discrimination based on religion and sex — including sexual orientation and gender identity — and other personal characteristics.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental American value, so fundamental that it is protected by the first amendment to our nation’s constitution. But that freedom does not give institutions or individuals the right to harm others, including by discriminating and especially with taxpayer dollars.”

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, told NBC News: “The many proposals to allow religious discrimination are consistent with the trend of the administration to undercut civil rights broadly.

“The administration is taking the position that religious freedoms give you a right to discriminate.”

She added: “Each one of these rules is significant, but when you connect the dots, you really see the administration pushing for a sea change in our culture and legal norms and realities, and it’s a sea change at the expense of existing nondiscrimination principles

More: Donald Trump, LGBT, Trump, White House

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