TLDEF Condemns DOJ Memo Sanctioning Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Under the Guise of “Religious Liberty”

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund condemns in the strongest possible terms the memo issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions today, deceptively titled “Federal Law Protections For Religious Liberty.”

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Jeff Sessions

The memo guides “all administrative agencies and executive departments in the execution of federal law” regarding religious freedom and the federal religious freedom statute. This includes all actions by federal agencies, including enforcement of the civil rights law by the federal government. It implies that any action, if religiously motivated, is protected. This goes well beyond the bounds of the law in allowing religiously-motivated bias. It would ostensibly permit discrimination against transgender and LGBTQ Americans by both public and private individuals and organizations, if motivated by any sincere religious belief.

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss

“Through this action, the Administration has once again attacked the fundamental dignity of our community. It is blatant anti-LGBTQ discrimination disguised as ‘religious liberty.’ Freedom of religion is a fundamental bulwark of our Constitution, which must be protected. That does not, however, allow targeting of transgender and LGBTQ Americans for bias. Our Constitution entitles us to equal protection of the laws, which includes freedom from discrimination based on our sex. We intend to fight against such odious discrimination vigorously with all the resources at our disposal.

While referencing many of the current provisions of law that properly protect religious freedom,  the broad wording of this guidance pits religion against transgender and LGBTQ identity. 94 percent of transgender people have reported that community faith leaders and/or members have accepted them for who they are as transgender persons, and more than three-quarters have been told their faith accepts them. TLDEF utterly rejects the false dichotomy between religion and transgender and LGBTQ identity.

Government offices that should be helping our citizens must not be allowed to engage in and perpetuate sex discrimination, whatever the reason. Companies doing business with the federal government, which put themselves into the marketplace to work with a great diversity of people, must not be allowed to practice sex discrimination. Religious practices are already protected by the federal Civil Rights Act. Churches and other religious institutions are already legally protected in the practice of their religion. This DOJ Memo, by contrast, turns that shield into a sword. Freedom without limits is an invasion on the rights of others.  All Americans, including government employees, are entitled to their religious beliefs; they are not entitled to enforce them against our communities in violation of our nation’s laws.

TLDEF joins our movement leaders in strongly denouncing this guidance. No one should be denied government services, lose their job, or be denied opportunities open to other Americans  simply for being who we are. This overbroad interpretation of religious freedom is discriminatory, illegal and wrong. Transgender people already face monumental rates of violence, unemployment, poverty and homelessness. This unlawful memo will only make these problems worse. We will oppose discrimination against our people wherever and however it appears, even when it is wrapped in constitutional principles and carrying the language of religious freedom.

We will never waver in our dedication to fighting for transgender rights.”