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Trump’s week of trashing LGBTQ rights continues with a sweeping 25-page religious freedom memo released this morning by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The memo instructs all U.S. attorneys, federal department heads and agencies that they should vigorously defend “religious freedom” — even if it involves discrimination against LGBTQ people — as long as it’s not expressly forbidden in state law.
The memo tells all federal employees to incorporate “robust protections for religious freedom” into all of their work including “litigation strategy and arguments, operations and grant administration.”
How Trump’s religious freedom memo affects LGBTQ people
Put simply, government agencies and employees have been told to defend people’s religious-based biases. This effectively grants people, businesses and organizations access to government support, even if they discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The memo mentions sexual orientation and gender identity specifically, stating:
This Guidance does not resolve any specific cases; it offers guidance on existing protections for religious liberty in federal law. The Guidance 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.
That sounds great until you realize that there are no federal laws protecting LGBTQ people. (Many states lack them as well.)
The significance of Trump’s new religious freedom memo
Trump has been trying to undermine states that have such laws anyway. He’s said it’s OK for workplaces to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious belief and it’s also OK for bakers and other wedding industry professionals to refuse service to same-sex couples because their work is “art” — so he obviously doesn’t respect state LGBTQ protections anyway.
Thus, charities, organizations, hospitals and workplaces can now refuse service to LGBTQ people and they’ll have the support of the federal government.
The Associated Press is reporting, “The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.”
Yet again, this memo demonstrates Trump’s disdain for LGBTQ people and his continued courting of evangelical voters, 81% of which voted for Trump in the last election. Just yesterday, Trump’s Department of Justice issued a memo stating that transgender discrimination is legally permissible under federal law.