Lately, we can’t seem to get through a week without another attempt by the Trump administration to strip away the protections of LGBTQ+ people. Yesterday, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule change that could allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people on the basis of religion. The proposed change essentially expands the language in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act from exempting religious institutions from adhering to this landmark anti-discrimination law to including “religious employers.”
Think back to the Masterpiece Cakeshop and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court cases, where business owners were given license to use their religious beliefs as the basis for denying services to LGBTQ+ people (Masterpiece) and reproductive health insurance coverage to employees (Hobby Lobby).
This excerpt of DOL’s proposed change is particularly chilling. The proposed change “is also intended to make clear that religious employers can condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets without sanction by the federal government, provided that they do not discriminate based on other protected bases.” In other words, an employer that contracts with the federal government doesn’t have to discriminate on the basis of religion, but if that employer does, the federal government has their back.
According to Federal News Network, the federal government spent $560B on contracted services last year. Federal contractors range from one-person operations to multi-billion-dollar, global corporations — all places where LGBTQ+ people work currently, and all places where we could easily be discouraged from applying to or be fired from if this rule goes into effect.
We encourage everyone to provide comments on why this proposed rule change is a bad idea. You can provide public comment at the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions for submitting comments by Sept. 16, 2019.
No government should be in the business of licensing discrimination. It doesn’t have be this way.
It has been reported over and over again that if the Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, were to be allowed to come to the Senate floor for a vote, it would pass and be on the path to actually become law. The Equality Act would expand the list of protected classes in the Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ people. That would prevent the Trump Administration’s tinkering of the law to constrict the rights the community. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow a vote on this important legislation. To learn more about how you can help pressure Sen. McConnell to call a vote on the Equality Act, visit the Human Rights Campaign’s website.
Pride Action Tank is a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.