Equality vs. Religious Liberty? Some Legal Background

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As time goes on, the battle between equality verses religious liberty is coming to a showdown. Let’s look at some of the legal background.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has extended gender discrimination to include sexual/gender identity discrimination in Title IX.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the

benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” stated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. “EEOC interprets and enforces Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws,” as posted on the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

Also, the Obama administration and U.S Department of Justice now interprets gender discrimination as gender identity discrimination in Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

“[W]hen a plaintiff complains of discrimination with regard to conditions of employment in an institution of higher learning, the method of evaluating Title IX gender discrimination claims is the same as those in a Title VII case,” DOJ website stated this new awareness.

Of course, Obama signed executive order 11246 protecting LGBT in the workplace.

“Executive Order 11246 protects workers employed by or seeking jobs with federal contractors and subcontractors from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Through this action, President Obama amended EO 11246 to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” said the US Dept. Of Labor website.

Alternately, if a person feels a substantial burden has been imposed on their religious liberty by working with transgender people, one legal defense might be invoking section 200bb-1 (c) of the RFRA.

“A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government,” as outlined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In the past, North Carolina, Mississippi, and other states have invoked religious freedom to pass bills protecting their religious liberty while others have called these bills discriminatory against the LGBT community.

“PayPal has canceled its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, following passage of a North Carolina law that prevents cities from creating non-discrimination policies based on gender identity,” said a recent CNN article. “Mississippi passed a religious freedom bill on Tuesday that many have criticized as discriminatory against the LGBT community. Proponents say it is designed to protect people’s religious beliefs. Many other states has passed similar laws in the recent past,” wrote David Goldman for CNN

In summary, while some say society and traditional religious mores are two passing ships in the night, only time will tell if equality will trump religious liberty or visa versa.

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