LGBT rights thrown under the 'religious freedom' bus and Jeff Sessions is driving

The way the 20 principles are worded, businesses and individuals are allowed to discriminate if it interferes with their religious beliefs giving companies the green light to refuse service to LGBT customers or deny birth control healthcare coverage to an employee.
Jeff Sessions
Sessions said President Trump ordered "extreme vetting" on Tuesday night after the terror attack in lower Manhattan. Photo: Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a broad decree which encourages agencies to do as much as possible for people who feel their religious beliefs are being violated. The new Trump administration policy does not name the LGBT community, but many see it as a direct hit against LGBT protections and rights.


The religious objection order lifts the burden of proof from religious objectors who claim their beliefs about marriage or other issues have not been upheld. A claim of a violation of religious freedom could undercut anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and other minorities or protected classes.


"This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously," Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told CNBC. "This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity."


The new policy lays the groundwork for discrimination against same-sex couples or women, like in the Hobby Lobby ruling. 


The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. Hobby Lobby was one of the two Christian-owned companies involved in the case.

“A law that seeks to compel a private person’s speech or expression contrary to his or her religious beliefs implicates both the freedoms of speech and free exercise,” which Sessions wrote in the appendix, bolsters the argument of the baker who doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay man or woman’s birthday.

According to ThinkProgress, the Trump administration — particularly Sessions, a deeply devout Methodist from Alabama, and his Department of Justice — has eroded LGBT rights in the following ways:

— Reversing a policy recognizing that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination.

— Arguing in court that firing an employee for being gay was justified.

— Arguing in court that a business refusing service to a same-sex couple was justified.

— Rescinding guidance protecting transgender students and replacing it with guidance that allows schools to discriminate against them.

— Instituting a ban on transgender people serving in the military.

— Working to roll back Obamacare’s rules protecting transgender people from discrimination in health care.

— Proposing massive cuts to HIV funding.

— Trying to cut questions that would identify LGBTQ people in various data collection efforts.

— Dropping out of the lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s anti-transgender law, HB2 [the "bathroom bill"].

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