US: White House Memo Allows Federal Contractors to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

A Department of Labor directive issued Friday instructs the government not to deny federal contracts to faith-based entities that discriminate in the name of their beliefs.

In a memo sent to staff in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Acting Director Craig E. Leen claims the department must “proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of… religious beliefs” when enforcing nondiscrimination laws.

[...] In a statement to INTO, Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality claims the memo is a misunderstanding of both the key tenets of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling and federal civil rights regulations.

“Religious organizations have ample protections under federal law, but they are not allowed to use federal money to discriminate against people,” says Tobin, who serves as the advocacy group’s director of policy. “The language of this directive is so broad and so vague because it is part of a long line of attempts by this administration to sow confusion and encourage any employer to act on their worst prejudices.”

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, adds that the memo is actually “contrary to established law.”

“This directive seems designed to undermine the current requirement that federal contractors may not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran,” Minter claims in comments emailed to INTO. “In the past, the Department of Labor has made clear that religious contractors may prefer members of their religion, but may not discriminate on any of those bases.”

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