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 offensive.”

“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.