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White House issues new directive allowing federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT people

The new directive has caused controversy among LGBT+ groups

2018-08-14

The White House has issued a directive allowing federal contractors to be able to discriminate against LGBT+ people.

Currently, there is no federal law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but Barack Obama did sign an order requiring all federal contractors to abide by LGBT+ anti-discrimination principles.

But on Friday, a document – issued by the Department of Labor – takes aim at the existing provisions which “prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran”.

The report cites the recent US Supreme Court ruling which favoured a baker who turned away a gay couple and said: “Recent court decisions have addressed the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afford religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the United States Constitution and federal law.”

It continues: “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].

“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.”

The new directive has caused controversy among LGBT+ groups who say it is enforcing discrimination against the community.

David Stacy, Human Rights Campaign’s Government Affairs Director, said: “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.

“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, 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.”