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Trump Administration Proposes Discriminatory LGBTQ Policy

September 18th, 2019

The Trump Administration is promoting a policy change that would grant federal contractors the right to discriminate against LGBTQ employees.
The Trump Administration is promoting a policy change that would grant federal contractors the right to discriminate against LGBTQ employees.

In August 2019, the Trump Administration received substantial criticism when it proposed a policy that would grant some federal contractors the right to discriminate against individuals who do not share the employers’ religious views. 

Many organizations who fight for LGBTQ rights have responded that this policy is dangerous, shameless, and unconscionable. This decision also substantially alters the government’s long-standing policy that prevents federal contractors from discriminating against individuals on the basis of the disability, national origin, race, religion, or sex.

The Role of Religious Exemptions

This new regulation promulgated by the Trump Administration would weaken existing prohibitions against discrimination by expanding the scope of religious exemptions, thereby allowing employers to treat LGBTQ individuals differently. This is because religious organizations are already permitted to reject candidates for some positions if their religious views conflict with the organization’s beliefs.

This regulation, however, would go further and would allow religious organizations to terminate existing LGBTQ employees because their views on same-sex marriage conflict with religious teachings. 

While the regulation appears to target LGBTQ individuals, the proposal is so extensive that it creates substantial loopholes for employers to discriminate against other individuals. For example, large companies might end up using the religious exemption to avoid hiring women if the company’s religious perspectives state that women should not work outside of the home.

Comparable Cases that Foreshadowed this Policy

There have been several cases that have resulted in the advancement of similar arguments. In one case, the United States Pastors Council argued that Christian employers are permitted to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals as a result of protections created by the Religious Freedom Act. This Act was made effective in 1993 and states that laws must further a compelling government interest as well as be tailored to minimize the burden placed on religious practices.

Subsequently, the United States Supreme Court in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision held that for-profit employers have the right to deny women access to family planning services if the employer has a religious objection to such planning.

The Potential Impact of The Decision by the Trump Administration

This decision will have a substantial impact on hiring practices by the more than 42,000 businesses in the United States that hold federal contracts and agree to follow certain rules to keep their deals with the government. 

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which prohibits some government contractors from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race. 

This announcement by the Trump Administration will extend exemptions to this law to a much greater degree. For-profit companies with religious affiliations will now be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ candidates. The regulation will also result in the definition of the word “religion” being extended to include any aspect of an entity’s religious belief, observance, or practice.

Tracking Developments with LGBTQ Rights

Each month, there are a number of cases that determine the extent of LGBTQ rights in this country. While some changes like the 2015 Obergefell decision significantly advanced LGBTQ rights in this country, other decisions have substantially limited them. By continuing to read the Universal Life Church’s blog each month, you can remain up to date with these important issues. 

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