On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled 8-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And yesterday, a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the federal Fair Housing Act includes protections for LGBTQ people.
These are undoubtedly huge victories for the LGBTQ community, so now’s the time to be even more vigilant in protecting against efforts to undermine the progress towards full LGBTQ equality. These attacks are often labeled as measures to advance “religious freedom” and are supported by the likes of President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Religious freedom is indeed a fundamental American value and it protects our right to believe or not as we see fit, but it does not give anyone a right to discriminate. Still, those who wish to use religion to harm others continue to push policies and legislation that are dangerous to the LGBTQ community.
For instance, President Trump’s leaked draft “religious freedom” executive order would permit (among many other things) hiring discrimination in the name of religion by any federal government contractor or grantee, including for-profit corporations. It would revive a similar sweeping provision that was rejected by Congress last year—but would be even broader. It would allow an employer to discriminate against anyone it says does not conform to its religious beliefs—this could include someone doesn’t regularly attend religious services, is in a same-sex marriage, undergoes a gender transition, gets divorced, uses birth control, or is pregnant and unmarried. As a result, it would create a sweeping religious exemption to existing protections that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ and women workers and other protected classes, including President Obama’s executive order extending protections to LGBTQ workers. But this is just one provision of the alarming draft executive order—there are many more troubling provisions. In fact, the draft order is so shocking in scope that fellow Republican US Senator Alan Simpson warned President Trump against signing it. (You can urge the president not to enshrine discrimination in the name of religion in our nation’s laws here.)
Another threat to LGBTQ equality is the likely re-emergence of the federal First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The version of FADA introduced in Congress last year would have allowed private businesses, federal contractors and grantees, and even government employees to use their religious beliefs about marriage and sex to justify discrimination. Under FADA, employers and landlords could claim the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. But the bill was written so broadly that it would have also threatened women, unmarried couples, married couples in which one person had been married before, single mothers, and those who have had sex outside of marriage. The bill’s sponsors plan to reintroduce it again this session and President Trump has promised to sign it.
We should all celebrate these great victories that continue the advances towards equality for LGBTQ people throughout the nation. And we will do our part to fight any threats to this important progress that would allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate. Join us on Facebook and Twitter to see how we’re working to protect our neighbors.