Metro Weekly

Trump wants to let federal contractors discriminate against LGBTQ people

A proposed Labor Department rule would allow contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people by citing religious objections

Donald Trump — Photo: Gage Skidmore

The Trump administration wants to allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

A proposed new rule, announced on Wednesday, would allow contractors with religious objections to discriminate against LGBTQ employees, as well as other workers based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and sex, Buzzfeed News reports.

The Labor Department proposal would include a multitude of organizations and entities that work with the government, including businesses and schools, as long as they cite a valid religious reason for discriminating.

“The contractor must be organized for a religious purpose, meaning that it was conceived with a self-identified religious purpose. This need not be the contractor’s only purpose,” the rule states. “A religious purpose can be shown by articles of incorporation or other founding documents, but that is not the only type of evidence that can be used.”

A Labor Department spokesperson confirmed that the rule protects for-profit corporations with federal contracts, allowing businesses to fire LGBTQ employees as long as they claim a religious objection to the employee’s LGBTQ identity.

Examples of potential discrimination under the new rule include firing or refusing to hire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The rule would be the latest effort by the Trump administration to undermine a 2014 executive order by President Barack Obama, which banned federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ people.

Trump had previously attacked the Obama-era rule by passing his own executive order allowing companies that do business with the federal government to avoid disclosing past instances of discrimination or violation of labor laws.

The National Center for Transgender Equality condemned the new proposal, saying the Trump administration was using religious freedom to attack LGBTQ people.

“Religious freedom must be a shield to protect the marginalized, not a sword to attack them,” NCTE executive director Mara Keisling said. “There are few values more sacred to the equality of all in this nation than the belief that nobody should be judged by an employer because of who they are or who they love, yet this administration continually seeks to undermine that value. Whether it’s our right to health care, our right to housing, or our right to equal employment, we are committed to fighting every action this administration takes against us.”

The Human Rights Campaign slammed the administration for trying to “gut nondiscrimination protections.”

“With this proposed regulation, the Trump administration is seeking to gut existing protections for LGBTQ people, women, and religious minorities, and we cannot stand idly by,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “This regulation, which directly contradicts Trump’s earlier promise, is a broad and sweeping effort to implement a license to discriminate against people on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Everyone deserves a workplace free from discrimination. The Trump administration needs to withdraw this proposed regulation and stop these attacks on LGBTQ people.”

The Trump administration is arguing that allowing contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people would save taxpayer money by removing the need to pay legal fees in discrimination cases.

In a press release, the Labor Department said that the proposed order wouldn’t rescind nondiscrimination protections, merely expand exemptions from complying with them.

The department said the new rule “would clarify that religious organizations may make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government,” but that it also “reaffirms employers’ obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases and does not exempt or excuse a contractor from complying with any other requirements.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the Trump administration was seeking to undermine civil rights.

“Once again, the Trump administration is shamefully working to license taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion,” Ian Thompson, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said in a statement. “Nearly one-quarter of the employees in the U.S. work for an employer that has a contract with the federal government. We will work to stop this rule that seeks to undermine our civil rights protections and encourages discrimination in the workplace.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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