This week the Trump administration took two aggressive actions against the rights of LGBT people that could certainly have a direct, significant, and negative impact on LGBT law enforcement professionals. First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo overturning President Obama’s interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include employment protections for transgender people under the existing definition of gender in the Act. In his memo, Sessions wrote:
“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
This action gives employers, including law enforcement executives, the ability to legally fire someone because they are transgender. While there are a few states with protections against this kind of discrimination, the majority of states in the country do not have laws to protect against this kind of action, even for law enforcement officers.
Perhaps the most sweeping and potentially damaging act came today when the Attorney General released a second directive related to religious freedom. He wrote:
“Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place, Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,” Sessions wrote. “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.”
The Attorney General has given license to government officials and private business owners to refuse service to LGBT people on the basis of their individual and personal religious beliefs. Again, in states where laws exist to protect access to service from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, this directive has no impact, but for much of the country, LGBT people could face harsh forms of discrimination.
We condemn both of these actions and urge every member of the LGBTQ+ community and our allies to speak out in protest. This is a call to action. Every member of our community needs to take some level of action to oppose this administration’s efforts to undermine our rights and to relegate further into second-class status. Give to a local LGBT civil rights organization or to a national organization. The National Center For Lesbian Rights and Human Rights Campaign both are fighting hard against this administration. No matter your feelings about these two organizations, they are the ones in Washington with the greatest ability to fight for us. We can expect this problem to grow worse. We are beyond “waiting to see what will happen.”