Donald Trump spends dying days of presidency legalising discrimination dressed up as religious freedom

Lame duck president Donald Trump

Lame duck president Donald Trump is using the dying days of his administration to push through a rule that undermines LGBT+ non-discrimination protections.

The increasingly-desperate departing president has just 42 days left of his term in office, but Republican operatives are letting no time go to waste in pushing through extreme and concerning new measures.

A rule issued by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs seeks to undermine large parts of Barack Obama’s executive order that prohibited anti-LGBT+ discrimination among federal contractors.

Under the previous rules, faith-based non-profits were granted an exemption, meaning that they would not be forced to operate against the teachings of their faith. However, the changes pushed through by the Trump administration also applies the faith-based exemption to for-profit companies. Millions of Americans are employed by for-profit federal contractors.

Donald Trump officials claim new rule will protect ‘religious identity’.

The change means that companies are free to take government contracts while discriminating against LGBT+ employees on the grounds that they are not  “individuals of a particular religion”.

Secretary of labour Eugene Scalia, the son of the late and notoriously anti-LGBT+ Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, said in a press release: “Religious organisations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity.

“This rule gives full effect to Executive Order 11246’s protection of religious organizations.”

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (Getty/Chris Carlson)

Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, said: “Within its final weeks, the Trump-Pence administration has chosen to prioritise gutting existing protections for LGBTQ people, women and religious minorities.

“This action by the administration is blatantly offensive, unnecessary and simply unacceptable, which is further compounded by the fact that they are attempting to jam it through a lame duck session.

“Since taking office, the administration has worked around the clock to dehumanize and demean LGBTQ people all while misrepresenting the law to justify creating a license to discriminate against people including on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

Joe Biden urged to overturn ‘flawed, dangerous’ rule in January.

David added: “The people have spoken and they want pro-equality leadership – the Trump-Pence administration must withdraw this flawed, dangerous final rule and stop their attacks on LGBTQ people.

“Should they not, the Human Rights Campaign is prepared to work alongside the incoming Biden-Harris administration to overturn this discriminatory regulation and ensure that the employees of federal contractors have a workplace free from discrimination.”

Rachel Laser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said: “It’s unconscionable, though hardly surprising, that the lame-duck Trump administration would expand the ability of federal contractors – who employ one-fifth of the American workforce – to use religious litmus tests to hire or fire employees for jobs paid for with taxpayer dollars. It’s especially heartless that the Trump administration would advance this policy in the midst of a global public health and economic crisis.

“The constitutional right to religious freedom promises everyone the right to live their lives secure that the government will treat them equally, no matter what their belief system.

“The new Department of Labor rule, however, turns this core American value on its head and puts countless peoples’ jobs at risk because they do not share the religious views or meet the religious code of conduct of a government contractor.

“Like so many others issued by the Trump administration, this rule particularly puts at risk workers who are LGBTQ, women, religious minorities and non-religious people.”

Laser added: “On 4 November, the voters rejected this type of religion-based discrimination that has been supported by the Trump administration and the president’s Christian nationalist allies. This rule is a last-gasp effort by the outgoing administration to ignore the will of the people and cement a legacy of using religious freedom as a sword to harm people, rather than a shield to protect all of us.

“We urge the Biden-Harris administration to restore and protect religious freedom and right the wrongs of the Trump administration, including by directing the Department of Labour to immediately begin the process of revoking this rule.”