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Former president Donald Trump launched one last desperate and futile attack on LGBT+ rights

Nick Duffy
·3-min read

Former president Donald Trump made a final desperate and futile attempt to undermine LGBT+ rights, shortly before Joe Biden took office.

Just days before Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, the Trump administration launched an eleventh-hour push to entrench anti-LGBT+ discrimination in law.

A new memo issued by the Department of Justice on Sunday, just days before Trump’s exit from power, seeks to significantly warp the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v Clayton County, which established that employers cannot discriminate against on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity under sex-based Civil Rights Act protections.

The 23-page memo, issued by the head of the justice department’s so-called civil rights division chief, John Daukas, seeks to carve out exceptions from the ruling, arguing that religious people should still be free to discriminate against LGBT+ employees.

Donald Trump administration launches futile attack on LGBT+ rights

It asserts: “Unlike racial discrimination, the Supreme Court has never held that a religious employer’s decision not to hire homosexual or transgender persons violates deeply and widely accepted views of elementary justice.”

The memo also insists that no changes will be made within the Department of Justice, arguing that it is permitted to “maintain sex-specific facilities and policies, including bathrooms, locker rooms, dress codes, and physical fitness standards” based on “biological sex”.

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President.
President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for his last time as President. (Getty/Pete Marovich)

David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Wall Street Journal that the Trump administration “lost the case, so they are looking for every possible way to narrow its implications rather than acknowledge that the days of discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are behind us”.

The Department of Justice memo follows hot on the heels of a similar move by the Department of Education.

Stream of anti-LGBT actions in doomed final days

Trump’s rabidly anti-LGBT+ secretary of education Betsy DeVos used the day of her resignation earlier this month (8 January) to slip out guidance that severely twists the landmark Bostock ruling, arguing it “is consistent with and further supports the department’s long-standing construction of the term ‘sex’ in Title IX to mean biological sex, male or female”.

Twisting the ruling further, the memo issued by DeVos’ officials argued that the “plain ordinary public meaning” of civil rights laws would require “toilet, locker room, and shower facilities” to be provided “based on biological sex” and for “separate athletic teams to separate participants solely based on their biological sex… and not based on transgender status”.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a “nasty parting shot” rule that permits social-service providers that receive government funds to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said: “The Trump administration will be remembered for many vile acts and among them will be its wave of policies enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“[This] rule would allow billions of dollars in federal grants to go to agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ people and others, including people from minority faith communities. These programs include health care, services for seniors, homeless shelters, and many other critical services including foster care which is the subject of a pending Supreme Court case, Fulton v City of Philadelphia. Discrimination should have no place in taxpayer-funded programs.

“The Biden administration must immediately roll back the Trump administration’s many attacks on LGBTQ rights and ensure that tax dollars are not used to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others.”

Many of the policy changes are expected to be undone by the Biden administration, with the new president set to sign an executive order on Wednesday outlawing anti-LGBT+ discrimination.