Regional LGBTQ orgs react to new “religious liberty” guidance

ST. LOUIS — LGBTQ organizations in the Midwest have reacted to Attorney General Jeff Sessions issuing guidance to “protect religious liberty in a broad, yet vague, guidance memo that critics fear could give people of faith — including government workers and contractors — a loophole to ignore federal bans on discrimination against women and LGBT people.”

“We are appalled at the sweeping nature of the recent guidance from Attorney General Sessions. While we agree that religious freedom is a cornerstone of many Americans’ lives, religious freedom should never be interpreted in a way that harms or denies rights to another person or group, and this memo orders just that,” said Steph Perkins, executive director of Missouri’s PROMO. “We call on our state and local legislatures to consider carefully what they can do to ensure this memo does not harm people here at home by strengthening laws and policies in Missouri to ensure protections for all Missourians.”

“This new guidance comes on the heels of a separate legal guidance yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination against transgender Americans and the memo issued this morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services permitting employers to deny basic coverage for contraception to women,” said Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson. “We are appalled at this administration’s efforts to relegate LGBTQ people and women to second-class citizens.”

“We are fortunate enough in Iowa to have legal protections for LGBTQ Iowans on the books, which should mitigate much of this guidance’s impact in our state,” said One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel. However, this order throws us into murky territory given the discrepancies between state and federal policy. It also sends a clear message to all LGBTQ Americans, including LGBTQ Iowans, that this administration does not care about their rights and sees them as a hindrance to their political goals rather than as human beings.“