The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to rollback LGBTQ rights — again.
According to BuzzFeed, the White House is preparing to consider regulations that would allow federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs. If implemented, the policy would expand on a “religious freedom” directive issued in August giving contractors greater license to cite faith-based exemptions in cases of discrimination.
But unlike the earlier memo, the website notes new regulation would “carry more legal force and is tremendously difficult to undo.”
Because the Department of Labor has yet to release a preliminary version of the regulation, it’s difficult to speculate as to whether the policy would apply specifically to religious organizations like Catholic Charities or the exemptions are more broad. A draft is expected in December.
LGBTQ advocacy groups characterized the alleged policy as a “can of worms.”
“No one should be afraid they could be fired at any moment if their employer gets clearance from [the Labor Department] to do so,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow told BuzzFeed.
“A formal regulation could serve to further entrench the position that engaging in taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ people can be permissible as long as it is framed as ‘religious liberty,’” added Ian Thompson, a legislative representative in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
Policy allowing federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would fly in the face of Trump’s 2017 pledge not to roll back the rights of LGBTQ workers.
Around the same time a leaked executive order hinted at plans to issue a broad license to discriminate, the White House press office asserted the president is “supportive of LGBTQ rights.” In a statement, a spokesperson claimed he is “proud” to have been “the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech.”
But even despite that promise, his administration has routinely chipped away at federal protections for LGBTQ employees.
While he has not repealed a 2014 executive order forbidding federal contractors from discriminating against queer and trans workers, he did strike down regulations overseeing compliance with the Obama order.
In addition, the Justice Department has argued civil rights law under Title VII doesn’t protect workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation.
Since Trump’s 2017 inauguration, the White House has also rolled back federal guidance respecting the gender identity of trans students, attempted to block transgender people from entering the military, and bolstered the right of health care workers to deny treatment to people based on gender identity or HIV status.