The Trump administration recently proposed a rule that could allow for-profit corporations with federal contracts to cite religious claims as a reason to discriminate against workers based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex and LGBTQ status. If it goes through, women in the workplace could be negatively affected. The National Center for Transgender Equality stated that this rule could prevent mothers or pregnant women from being hired. And there’s deeper concern from progressive organizations, according to Buzzfeed News, that this rule would open the door to “fire, or refuse to employ, people of minority faiths, divorcés or women who don’t conform to strict gender norms.”
If federal contractors were to cite a “religious pass” over firing a woman for being a lesbian or divorced, the Labor Department wouldn’t be required to take legal action under this ruling. Up to 420,000 businesses may be covered under the proposed rule, according to the 46-page draft from the Department of Labor. “While only a subset of contractors and would-be contractors may wish to seek this exemption, the Supreme Court, Congress and the President have each affirmed the importance of protecting religious liberty for those organizations who wish to exercise it,” it reads. The Labor Department believes the rule would ultimately save contractors’ and taxpayers’ money because anyone terminated for these reasons wouldn’t be able to sue—because the discrimination would be legal.
While supporters of this ruling believe that the right to exercise religion validates this proposed policy, it disregards the groups of people that could lose employment opportunities because of it.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, explains, “Religious freedom must be a shield to protect the marginalized, not a sword to attack them. There are few values more sacred to the equality of all in this nation than the belief that nobody should be judged by an employer because of who they are or who they love, yet this administration continually seeks to undermine that value.”