Critics Say 2 Memos From Sessions Attack LGBTQ Rights
Justice Department says federal civil rights law doesn't apply to transgender employees
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2017 1:58 PM CDT
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a ceremony for FBI Director Chris Wray at the FBI Building, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Newser) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued two memos this week that critics say put the rights of the LGBTQ community at risk. NBC News reports a Justice Department memo issued Wednesday states Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, does not protect transgender people. The memo is a direct contradiction of one issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014 that stated trans employees were protected by Title VII. “It is a dark day in our nation’s history when those tasked with defending our civil rights open the door to government-sponsored discrimination,” Democratic US Rep. Joseph Kennedy says. LGBTQ advocates argue years of rulings have shown, as a Lambda Legal executive puts it, "discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination."

On Friday, Sessions issued another memo that includes 20 "sweeping principles" on religious freedom and how the government should protect it, the Washington Post reports. According to the Hill, those principles include "the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one's religious beliefs," meaning religious businesses or organizations can decide to hire or not hire people based on their religion and could be allowed to legally discriminate against some people, likely based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The memo stems from an executive order signed by President Trump meant to make it easier for churches to get into politics while remaining tax exempt. The memo states the Trump administration "will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore."

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