Today, October 6, the Department of Justice issued new guidance that grants unprecedented leeway to federal agencies, employees, and even some businesses to cite individual religious belief as justification for discriminating against LGBTQ people and denying them services.
The guidance issued today amounts to a sweeping “license to discriminate” — a radical departure and sweeping reinterpretation that far exceeds the original modest intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their religion.
The Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition, which represents 250+ mayors in nearly every state who support LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, condemned the new guidance today, underlining that the guidance is a thinly veiled effort to pave the way for anti-LGBTQ discrimination nationwide. The coalition said:
“As elected officials, our role is to protect our residents fairly and equally – and that includes protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. This guidance from the Trump Administration undercuts that responsibility and underlines the importance of local and state leaders standing up for full equality.”
The guidance elevates the urgent importance of protecting LGBTQ residents with LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, which provide protection and cover against discrimination based on employment, housing, and public accommodations. These cities and towns with comprehensive non-discrimination protections will continue to not tolerate any anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and today’s news doesn’t impact that. At the same time, the federal government’s ongoing attempt to provide religious carveouts and exemptions from existing civil rights laws is alarming.
Mayors know what’s best for their local communities – and what’s clearly best, in a nation where LGBTQ people continue to face incredibly high rates of discrimination, is to pass laws and policies prohibiting such egregious discrimination.