The Trump administration on Monday
announced that it had finalized religious exemption changes to former
President Barack Obama's executive order prohibiting federal
contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.
The rule change, first proposed in
2019, will take effect on January 8, just days before President
Donald Trump leaves office.
Executive Order 11246 was signed by
President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. It prohibited companies doing
business with the government from employment discrimination based on
race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In 2014, Obama
amended the order to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
LGBT groups criticized Trump's rule
change, saying it will open the door to broad employment
discrimination since it makes no distinction between anti-LGBT
discrimination and other forms of discrimination prohibited under the
order, such as race or sex.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, called the change “blatantly
“Within its final weeks, the
Trump-Pence administration has chosen to prioritize gutting existing
protections for LGBTQ people, women and religious minorities,” said
HRC President Alphonso David. “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.”
Jennifer Pizer, director of law and
policy at Lambda Legal, said in a statement that the “new rule uses
religion to create an essentially limitless exemption allowing
taxpayer-funded contractors to impose their religious beliefs on
their employees without regard to the resulting harms.”
Sasha Buchert, senior attorney at
Lambda Legal, added that the “rule effectively allows almost any
federal contractor to claim a right to fire a person, deny health
benefits or take other forms of discriminatory action” against LGBT workers.
The incoming Biden administration will
have to undergo a full rulemaking process to undo the regulation now
that it has been finalized.
An estimated 34 million employees work
for federal contractors.