Attorney General Jeff Sessions Announces Formation of ‘Religious Liberty Task Force’ in Latest Attempt to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Americans

By Shane Stahl • July 30, 2018 • 4:59 pm

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the formation of a new religious liberty task force that will be charged with overseeing the “License to Discriminate” guidance that his Department of Justice (DOJ) issued last October. The task force, taken with the guidance released last year, represents the latest steps DOJ is taking to undermine legal equality for LGBTQ Americans.

“Religious freedom is important – and, as many of the speakers at today’s Department of Justice event noted – it’s already concretely protected in our Constitution and laws,” said Freedom for All Americans Chief Legal Counsel, Jon Davidson. “No one is trying to change that. Despite that, today’s DOJ action is just the latest step this administration has taken to undermine the rights of LGBTQ Americans under our nation’s laws. Time and again, Jeff Sessions’ DOJ has seized the opportunity to side in court with those who seek to be permitted to violate those laws and discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. Decades of legal precedent make clear that religious freedom is not a justification for harming others, and that should apply to LGBTQ people as well.”

Sitting on the panel where Sessions made his announcement was Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling in a case involving Phillips’ bakery, which refused to serve a same-sex male couple, and in its ruling the Court narrowly sided with the owner. Importantly, in its ruling, the Court also affirmed the importance of nondiscrimination measures in ensuring LGBTQ Americans are treated fairly and equally. The narrow nature of the ruling also leaves the door open for the Court to take up similar ‘License to Discriminate’ cases in the future.

DOJ’s efforts to use religion as a means of marginalizing LGBTQ Americans is not new. In the same year that the Supreme Court affirmed the freedom to marry nationwide, state legislatures were swamped with discriminatory bills that sought to codify discrimination against LGBTQ people, often by allowing individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs.  More recently, anti-LGBTQ family bills have been introduced in many states that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ youth and same-sex couples. Two passed just this year in Kansas and Oklahoma, and an attempt to pass similar legislation was stopped in the Georgia legislature. Currently, ten states have discriminatory adoption laws on the books.

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