Action – Comment to stop this anti-American breakdown of the wall between church and state, funded with your tax dollars.
With this proposed rule, “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption“, Trump is not just throwing meat to his base of fundamentalist evangelical Christians by targeting women and the LGBTQ community. He’s not just undermining another one of Obama’s accomplishments. By allowing the prejudices of a small group to expand their discriminatory goals further into the public sphere, fueled by our own tax dollars, he’s weakening the protections of our constitution and the bonds that hold us together as a people.
Right-wing fundamentalists and white supremacists are mobilizing their base to support this rule. There are also a lot of comments from misinformed religious people, who are worried that opposing this rule change would suddenly force churches and church soup kitchens to hire atheists. This makes it crucial that you speak out.
Please, in your own voice, comment on this proposed change. We’ve added a bunch of information below for you to use to understand what the rule would do, and it’s essential un-American nature. We’ve even added some fast American history at the bottom so you can see where we’ve been in our struggle to make “all men are created equal” true. The deadline is September 16, 2019 at 11:59 EST.
- The proposed regulation is here.
- Other people’s comments are here. Read for inspiration. Don’t copy. Identical comments and signatures on petitions will only count as (1) total comment.
What does this proposed rule do? Well, it could fire you.
Punching down with the Trump Administration: “Today’s proposed rule helps to ensure the civil rights of religious employers are protected,” said Acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella in a prepared statement.
We can’t tell “Religious Freedom” and discrimination apart – On August 14th, the Trump Administration’s Department of Labor announced a proposed change to federal rules that would make it easier for private employers who want contracts with the federal government to subject their employees to their religious beliefs on sexual orientation, gender identity or even their sexual activity outside of work. Much of their discussion was based on the SCOTUS case of a CO cake baker refusing to serve a gay couple (a weird case) and Hobby Lobby’s refusal to provide several forms of contraception to their employees.
Wait! Isn’t discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal?: Most Americans oppose discrimination against LGBT people, and many believe that it’s already illegal based on two events.
- The first was Obama’s 2014 executive order 13672, which prohibited discrimination in the civilian federal workforce on the basis of gender identity and in hiring by federal contractors on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. However, he left untouched the religious exemption instituted by President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13279, which allowed religiously affiliated contractors to discriminate in whatever factor they wished — whether it be LGBT status, race or gender — for the limited purpose of hiring of ministerial positions, such as clergy.
- The second – In 2015, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that, outside that narrow religious exemption, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was an unlawful form of sex-based bias, regardless of any contrary state or local laws. This was consistant with rulings they’ve made since 2011, starting with regulations against stereotyping LGBT employees and later adding more protections for trangender workers. Trump’s Department of Justice is trying to get the EEOC to reverse their findings and rulings and declare that discrimination against LGBT workers is legal. The EEOC does not make law but its findings are highly-regarded and taken into account by the courts.
There are a number of states that don’t explicitly ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accomodations. The EEOC’s rulings don’t cover employers with fewer than 15 employees and Obama’s executive order was for federal employee or contractors. The House just passed HR 5 – the Equality Act, which would fix these loopholes that affect the safety, families, and day-to-day lives of the entire LGBTQ community. We need the Senate to bring up and vote for S.788.
Expanding the field of players: As we stated above, Bush’s exemptions were supposed to apply only to religious nonprofit organizations, such as churches or social service groups, and these groups could only turn away employees who don’t belong to their faith. However, the proposed rule (46-page document) would expand the ability to discriminate to a broader group of government contractors – including for-profit corporations that have a religious affiliation (St. Jude’s Hospital and Goodwill for example), schools (like Georgetown University) and societies. “The contractor must be organized for a religious purpose, meaning that it was conceived with a self-identified religious purpose. This need not be the contractor’s only purpose.” So, religious places that also sells craft supplies – like Hobby Lobby.
How many people could be affected? According to the Department of Labor, 420,000 entities are currently registered as potential federal contractors and that Marketplace recently reported that 4.1 million people work as federal contractors. Subcontractors make that number far larger. Approximately 2000 contracts are awarded to religious groups each year, with the Department of Labor claiming that some of these groups have been “reluctant to participate as federal contractors” because they’re unsure whether they would be protected from discrimination claims if they hired or fired people on religious grounds. The rule states “It is also intended to make clear that religious employers can condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets without sanction by the federal government, provided that they do not discriminate based on other protected bases.” Labor officials clarified care must be taken not to get caught discriminating on racial grounds, citing the landmark Supreme Court decision Bob Jones University v. United States, which found that government interests outweigh supposed religious objections to racial integration. But it’s open season on gay and transgender people and religious and non-religious minorities. The impact could be enormous as these exemptions would affect not only workers directly involved in federally funded projects but every other worker employed by those companies.
How can I become a “religious employer”? The proposed rule uses a three part test to determine if an entity is religious – whether it was organized for a religious purpose, publicly presents itself as religious, or engages in the exercise of religion. “A contractor can satisfy the (presentation) requirement in a variety of ways, including by evidence of a religious purpose on its website, publications, advertisements, letterhead, or other public-facing materials, or by affirming a religious purpose in response to inquiries from a member of the public or a government entity.” One can also “engage(s) in exercise of religion”, like David Green of Hobby Lobby did, by trying to deny one’s employees access to various types of contraceptives. (See Scalia’s corporate-friendly defense of his Hobby Lobby decision here.)
Expanding “religion”: It proposed rule would also expand the definition of the word “religion” – allowing “all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice as understood by the employer.” The rule would also “clarify that the religious exemption allows religious contractors not only to prefer in employment individuals who share their religion, but also to condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employing contractor.” “The proposed definition of “Exercise of religion” also clarifies that the touchstone for religious exercise is sincerity, and therefore an exercise of religion must only be sincere. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly counseled, “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”
Expanding discrimination: Not only would this proposed rule allow anti-women-&-LGBTQ CEOs a work-around to Obama’s Executive Order banning discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation, but could also break the boundaries of all our anti-discrimination laws, including ethnicity, national origin, race, sex, and other characteristics, provided that the business presents a religious justification, despite the Labor Department’s assurances. Patricia Shiu, who oversaw the federal contracting office under President Obama, said that the proposed rule’s wording is broad enough to create a loophole for employers to discriminate against anyone. Certain contractors could refuse to hire women, citing beliefs that women should not work outside of the home. A “religious” hospital wouldn’t have to hire employees of other faiths. For a 500-bed hospital, that could be 4,400 employees that would need to be screened for personal ideologies.
Who’s the victim here?: The Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that advocates for religious protections, said the rule will make more religious organizations available to provide services like foster care, shelters and job training without being marginalized for religious views. Under this rule, the burden of “marginalization” will be borne by those they are supposed to serve. Even now, groups emboldened by the Trump administration’s chipping away at the church/state divide, are funding lawsuits to challenge the federal Civil Rights Act itself. Even without dissolving this core legislation, this proposed rule would exponentially increase the number of discriminatory actions that could be funded with our tax dollars, including:
- Religiously affiliated schools firing women because they became pregnant while not married. Or for using IVF. Or got their tubes tied. Or got divorced.
- Employers to refusing to provide insurance coverage for contraception for their employees or surgical sterilization;
- Contraception is just the beginning – “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions, Christian Scientists eschew modern medicine entirely, Scientologists are opposed to psychiatry and drugs associated with psychiatry, some Evangelical Christians are opposed to the HPV vaccine, and certain fundamentalist factions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are opposed to the use of all vaccinations.” Secular corporation could fake a religious issue to bring down their own insurance coverage costs.
- Graduate students, training to be social workers, refusing to counsel gay people;
- Pharmacists turning away women seeking to fill birth control prescriptions, including emergency contraception; some pharmacies refuse to even carry these medications. Because of the time-sensitive nature of birth control and emergency contraception, delays in dispensing can result in improper use or reduce the medication’s effectiveness.
- Bridal salons, photo studios, and reception halls refusing to assist to same-sex couples planning their weddings.
- Employers refusing to hire trans people, or fire them if they transition while under their employ. The case regarding Aimee Stephens, a Michigan woman who was fired from her job at a funeral home after she came out as transgender and began presenting as a woman at work is at the Supreme Court now. (Just a note for those panicked about restroom use… Buck Angel is a transgender man and activist for the transgender community.)
- Property managers refusing to rent or sell to LGBTQ people or those engaging in lifestyles at odds with their religious values, such as cohabitation before marriage.
- “Religious companies” could copy religious institutions who currently offer pension plans that are exempt from federal protections, which has left some workers completely exposed when these noninsured plans run into trouble or are underfunded. Under the legal theory being advanced by Hobby Lobby and others, for-profit corporations could seek similar exemptions to pension laws and other workplace protections and regulations under the guise of religious liberty.
- “Religious companies” that contract with the government refusing to hire religious minorities, they could also refuse to hire someone in a same-sex marriage or fire someone who had sex before marriage,
- “Religious hospitals” can CONTINUE to refuse to perform normal procedures related to women’s and LGBTQ reproductive health, and end of life issues. (See growth of Catholic hospitals and their restrictions here and our post here on the thankfully cancelled merger of Dignity Health with UCSF Medical Center
- Make adherence to specified religious tenets, even in private, a condition of continued employment
Discussion item – No Discrimination with my tax money!
“Federal funding is not a form of religious freedom. It’s a government entitlement, not an article of faith or a religious practice. Despite the rhetoric, religious liberty is not at stake when the federal government asks religious institutions to abide by federal law. Church-related universities can choose to believe what they want and practice their faith in whatever ways they choose. What they should not be able to is to do is to discriminate against transgender, lesbian, and gay students and staff and receive federal benefits while so doing.” (Huffpost)
If it’s good for the goose…: Forced-birth supporters got the government to pass the Hyde Amendment, which is an astonishingly religious piece of legislation which prevents the use of federal funding to pay for legal abortion services.
OK, so it is our “closely held belief” that the government must stop funding discrimination with our tax dollars. Funding open prejudice against any group of fellow tax-paying citizens, with their own tax dollars, no less, is essentially destructive and anti-American. Nobody is guaranteed a job that their own prejudices prevent them from fully participating in.
We refuse to allow our tax dollars to support these outrages (and similar or related examples):
- Religion-based homeless shelters who use their own religious beliefs when deciding whether to admit a person, putting members of the LGBTQ community at risk of physical danger and homelessness.
- Foster care & adoption agencies that discriminates against any prospective parents who are not Protestant Christians or heterosexuals.
- Religious schools or private schools, who discriminate against students and/or their parents. Where could our money go?
- To a religion we may not like. A Louisiana state representative walked back her support for a school voucher program in 2012 after she realized she forgot she lived in America. “Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.” – Louisiana state Rep. Valarie Hodges told local outlet Livingston Parish News at the time, referring to her disappointment in discovering that vouchers did not exclusively support Christian schools.
- Guaranteed there will be others who don’t want Jewish, or non-religious schools to get funding, or schools that teach in other languages.
- To segregionalist or/and white supremacist organizations and those who subjugate or teach the subjugation of women.
- To schools that don’t teach real science, like evolution. (Actually, this is already happening at public schools.)
- Schools that don’t teach their students enough secular subjects to survive in the non-religious world.
- Book banners. This just in (8/3/19) – A pastor at a Nashville Catholic school purged Harry Potter books, not just because they discuss witchcraft, as other banners have stated, but because he believes that the “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.” No, none of our tax dollars for you, sir.
- Fake pregnacy centers that deliberately mislead women. (salon) The Supreme Court ruled against CA in NIFLA vs. Becerra, when CA attempted to halt deceptive practices used by Crisis Pregnancy Centers to ensure patients seeking support for their pregnancies are able to receive medically accurate and unbiased information about their options relating to pregnancy, abortion, adoption, parenting, and state services, including Medicaid coverage for abortion care through MediCal. The Supreme Court ruled against the health and informed-choice of women and in favor of the “free speech” of extremist organizations instead.
- Religiously-biased health care providers who put religious directives over the care of their patients. A study conducted by Merger Watch shows that in 1998 Medicare and Medicaid funding accounted for half of all revenue for religious hospitals. Other types of government appropriations (such as state-sponsored bonds) neared $700 million, bringing total public funding to $45.2 billion. These providers won’t provide sexual assault survivors with emergency contraception, prohibit almost all other reproductive health services including contraceptive other than “natural family planning”, most treatments for infertility, sterilizations for men and women, and abortion, without exception for rape or incest or even to save the pregnant woman’s life. The least invasive medical interventions to end a dangerous tubal ectopic pregnancy may be prohibited by Catholic teachings. Advance medical directives be honored only to the extent that they do not conflict with Catholic teachings.
Discussion item – Do you get the feeling that some groups’ religious issues are more important than others?
The focus of this rule is ostensibly to allow religious groups to discriminate based on their closely-held belief systems, particularly those with negative views of LGBTQ people and women’s reproductive choices. (Interesting fact – “In addition to supporting refusals of service, white evangelicals are the only Christian group with a majority (51%) who viewed such refusals as a reinforcement of their religious freedom, compared to 41% of Protestants, 37% of all Christians and 32% of Catholics.”) Meanwhile, other religious interests are being completely ignored by the administration rulemakers, or are, in fact, targeted for criminalization.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, was a modern religious war played out in real time on our nightly news, as Native people gathered from around the nation to protect sacred land against government-backed corporate interests. Not only was our government not interested in their religious beliefs, but state and federal government entities are actively working to criminalize their protests to protect sacred lands.
Ironically, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) that fuels the proposed rule allowing companies to masquerade as religious bodies, was originally enacted by liberal members of Congress in response to Oregon Employment Division v. Smith, in order to guarantee broader First Amendment protection to Native Americans. (This was the peyote case, which the respondents lost).
Native American religions are not well understood by our federal courts. While western religions can haggle over details of worship, clothing, holidays, and buildings, most Native Americans religious traditions are bound within the land they consider sacred. Large swaths of land. Because many non-natives struggle to grasp this definitive difference, courts may be reluctant to protect sites, especially if protection interferes with usage by non-natives or extractive industries. “Native Americans fail when they bring claims under the first amendment because the government’s interest in the unrestricted use of their federal lands trumps the contitutional interest of the Native Americans.”
Pipelines, drilling and mining…we mow through their sacred cemetaries and natural cathedrals without a second thought.
- Tribes challenge final permit for toxic open-pit copper mine on sacred lands. Mine in Arizona would desecrate burial sites and historic place… (EarthJustice)
- Drilling Sacred Lands: A monumental Disgrace (FriendsCommittee)
Hey! What about these guys?: Polygamy was outlawed federally by the Edmunds Act, and there are laws against the practice in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. So, how does this square with the administration’s statement “As the Supreme Court has repeatedly counseled, “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection?” Is the Trump Administration going to legalize this now?
Discussion item – Discriminating against discriminators!
Telling people who use religion to justify discrimination against others, that they have to focus their animus on just LGBTQ people and women’s reproductive freedoms, could be seen as discriminatory against the totality of their beliefs.
Although they are targeting LGBTQ people…: “Three in ten (30%) Americans say they think it should be permissible for a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while two-thirds (67%) say they should not be allowed to do so.”
…it’s just the beginning: This whole push to fund religious organizations with tax dollars has opened a Pandora’s box to the ugliness of our past. There’s no bottom to this stuff…Here’s some recent examples that could have just as easily been from 50 years ago. Do you think people don’t still use religion to discriminate against mixed race couples? (Important update 9/4/19 – Owner of featured wedding venue, after scouring the Bible for proof of her anti-miscegenation viewpoint, retracts her statement and apologizes, at least for the anti-mixed marriage part. More on our anti-miscegenation history here and Loving v. Virginia here.)
African Americans: This lady came into the news by stating that her town should be kept as white as possible. Just the tip of the iceberg…she also believes that the Bible forbids mixed-race marriages and that non-white foreigners should go back home to “fix their own country”. (Nice article to remind all of us descended from immigrants how hard fixing a country might be…) Remember, a belief only needs to be “sincere” to allow a “religious business to discriminate under this rule. “Fifteen percent of Americans say small businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve African Americans if doing so violates their religious beliefs, a five-percentage-point increase from 2014 (10%).”
Jews: “The proportion of Americans who say small businesses should be able to refuse to serve Jews on religious grounds is up seven percentage points (19% in 2019 vs. 12% in 2014). Republicans (24%) are more likely than independents (16%) and Democrats (17%) to say small businesses should be allowed to refuse service to Jews. Support is up from 2014, when only 16% of Republicans and 9% of Democrats supported this sort of service refusal…Support for denying service to Jews has roughly doubled among white evangelical Protestants (up to 24% from 12% in 2014), white mainline Protestants (up to 26% from 11%), and Catholics (up to 20% from 10%), while the religiously unaffiliated (11% vs. 11%) and nonwhite Protestants (19% vs. 14%) have remained mostly stable in their attitudes on these issues.”
Muslims: “Support for religiously based service refusals aimed at Muslims is similar to opinions about service refusals aimed at atheists. Just over one in five (22%) Americans say small businesses should be able to refuse to serve Muslims on religious grounds.”
Handy History: A non-exhaustive guide to the long, hard struggle for a “free” country to reach up for “equal”.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” – These words feel like they are written in our bones, but the story of America is the continuous struggle between those who believe in the aspiration of our Declaration of Independence, and those who think that Thomas Jefferson got carried away. The authors themselves fell far short of their ideal, returning to their wives, who had no ability to own property or vote, and for a third of the signers, including Jefferson, to their slaves. Our defining historical event, the Civil War, still divides this country and Jefferson’s words should never let us rest.
1640’s – The real birth of the separation of church and state:
- Jefferson got all the press for the phrase “Wall of separation between church and state“ in answer to the Danbury Baptist Association’s letter in 1802, but he wasn’t the first to discuss this concept on American soil. The Smithsonian has this great article on why Roger Williams, a Baptist minister from the 1600’s is one of our heroes. (Which you should bookmark and share.) A quick recap – The Puritans felt that The Church of England was oppressive and corrupt, so they set out to create their own brand of religious state in the new world. They believed that their new government could prevent error in religion and were extremely intolerant of other religions and suspicious of democracy. Roger Williams believed that preventing error in religion was impossible, as it required fallible humans to interpret God’s law and that government must remove itself from religion entirely to prevent the type of corruption that forced them all to leave England in the first place. He was promptly banished for blasphemy under threat of execution. He bought a piece of land from the Narragansett’s, which he named “Providence”, in what was to become modern Rhode Island. This profoundly religious man then created a political compact for his fledgling settlement that didn’t mention God at all. With a charter from Parliament to hold off the marauding Puritans, he created a manifesto rejecting the idea that God lent His authority to government. He wrote: “I infer that the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” The governments they establish, he wrote, “have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with.
- 1763 – First Jewish Temple in America: The Touro Synagogue, of Newport, Rhode Island, is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States.
- 1774 – First Black Churches: The first black Baptist congregations are organized in the South: Silver Bluff Baptist Church in South Carolina, and First African Baptist Church near Petersburg, Virginia.
- 1776 – 1783 The (Black) American Revolution: Thousands of enslaved African Americans in the South were promised freedom and escaped to join British lines. In South Carolina, 25,000 enslaved African Americans, one-quarter of those held, escaped to the British or otherwise left their plantations. After the war, many African Americans were evacuated with the British for England; more than 3,000 Black Loyalists were transported with other Loyalists to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where they were granted land. Still others go to Jamaica and the West Indies. An estimated 8–10,000 were evacuated from the colonies in these years as free people, about 50 percent of those slaves who defected to the British and about 80 percent of those who survived. In the North, many free blacks fought with the colonists for the rebellion.
- 1776 – 1789 The Documents: Though it was almost a hundred years since Roger William’s death to when the Founders composed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they included many ideas that seemed to be borrowed from him – especially the separation of church and state. The first amendment to the US Constitution says clearly, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is one of the best lines, as it celebrates freedom FROM religion, freedom OF religion, and freedom FOR religion. “Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen states to ratify the Constitution, and when it did, George Washington came to Rhode Island to help celebrate. He visited a Jewish synagogue in Newport, Touro Synagogue, which is now the oldest synagogue in America, and wrote a beautiful letter afterwards, thanking the Jewish community here and assuring them that the United States does not tolerate bigotry or religious persecution. That was an appropriate message for a President of the United States to write after a visit to the state founded by Roger Williams.“
- 1777 – No slaves in Vermont: The Vermont Republic (a sovereign nation at the time) abolishes slavery, the first future state to do so. No slaves were held in Vermont.
- 1780 – Pennsylvania becomes the first U.S. state to abolish slavery.
- 1791 – Bill of Rights: The First Amendment to the Constitution prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
- 1819 – Missouri Compromise: Legislation that provided for the admission of Maine to the United States as a free state along with Missouri as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power between North and South in the United States Senate. As part of the compromise, slavery was prohibited north of the 36°30′ parallel, excluding Missouri.
- 1831- Nat Turner’s slave rebellion: Armed uprising against white slaveholders.
- 1854 – Kansas Nebraska Act: Essentially opened all new territories to slavery by asserting the rule of popular sovereignty over congressional edict.
- 1857 – Dredd Scott v. Sandford: Ruling that held that Americans descended from African slaves, enslaved or free, could not be citizens of the United States. The Property Clause was only applicable to lands possessed at the time of ratification (1787). As such, Congress could not ban slavery in the territories. Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional. This decision is regarded as a key cause of the American Civil War.
- 1861-1865 – The Civil War: The battle over the continuation of the “peculiar institution” and the rights of men. By the start of the Civil War, four million people, nearly all of African descent, were held as slaves in 15 southern and border states. Slaves represented one-eighth of the U.S. population in 1860.
- 1865 – 13th Amendment: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
- 1868 – 14th Amendment: The amendment’s first section includes several clauses: the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause. The Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship, nullifying the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States.
- 1870 – 15th Amendment to the US.: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
- 1875 – Baby steps: After the Civil war, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was supposed to “protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights”, providing for equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation and prohibiting exclusion from jury service. The Reconstruction and this law lasted two years, until the Compromise of 1877, when white supremecist businessmen retook political control of the South and disenfranchised black voters through violence and fraud.
- 1883 – Two steps back: In Civil Rights Cases, the Supreme Court ruled that the “public accommodation” sections of the act were unconstitutional, and that Congress could not control discrimination by private persons or corporations under the Equal Protection Clause of the the 14th Amendment, which took effect in 1868, despite its mandate that “nor shall any State […] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.
- 1891 – First intrarracial hospital: Provident Hospital, was the first African-American owned and operated hospital in America. It was established in Chicago by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American surgeon during the time in American history where few public or private medical facilities were open to black Americans.
- 1896 – “Separate but equal”: In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds de jure racial segregation of “separate but equal” facilities.
- 1914 – Re-segregation of the military: Newly elected president Woodrow Wilson orders physical re-segregation of federal workplaces and employment after nearly 50 years of integrated facilities.
- 1915 – That horrid film: The Birth of a Nation is released to film theaters. The NAACP protests in cities across the country, convincing some not to show the film.
- 1917 – 1919 Black American protests: East St. Louis Riot, Houston Riot, Red Summer of 1919 riots: Chicago, Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Indianapolis, and elsewhere, Omaha Race Riot of 1919, Nebraska, Elaine Race Riot, Phillips County, Arkansas.
- 1917 – Buchanan v. Warley: The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules that a ban on selling property in white-majority neighborhoods to black people and vice versa violates the 14th Amendment.
- 1918 – touchstone crime: Mary Turner, was a young, married black woman and mother of two who was lynched by a white mob in Lowndes County, Georgia, for having protested the lynching death of her husband Hazel “Hayes” Turner the day before in Brooks County. She was eight months pregnant, and her unborn child was also brutally murdered. They were followed by the murders of 11 more black men by a white mob in Brooks and neighboring Lowndes counties during a manhunt and lynching rampage.
- 1920 – White women get the vote: In 1920, the 19th Amendment is ratified. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
- 1921 – First mosque opens in America: The first mosque building was most likely a mosque in Detroit, Michigan, located near the famous Highland Park Ford Plant, which employed “hundreds of Arab American men”. This mosque, which included Sunni, Shia and Ahmadi Muslims, was funded by Muhammad Karoub, a real estate developer.
- 1921 – Tulsa Race Riot, Oklahoma: Mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in what has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district — at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street”.
- 1924 – Native American women get the vote and citizenship: Athough the Indian Citizenship Act was enacted in 1924, many states nonetheless make laws and policies which prohibit Native Americans from voting, and many are effectively barred from voting until 1948. The 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, along with restrictive and unrealistic voting regulations, routinely make voting challenging for Native Americans.
- 1929 – LULAC is formed: The League of United Latin American Citizens, the first organization to fight for the civil rights of Latino Americans, is founded in Corpus Christi, Texas.
- 1930 – One step forward: It wasn’t until the 1930’s during the New Deal, that the Court decided that the government had a legitimate interest in preventing discrimination and could do so under the Constitution’s commerce clause. In 1932, the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law“, from the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, was engraved on the front of the Supreme Court Building.
- 1932 – medical experimentation on Black citizens: The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male begins at Tuskegee University.
- 1936 – Black American shows up Hitler: American sprinter Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
- 1939 – World famous black opera singer locked out:
- The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused Marian Anderson permission to sing to an integrated audience in their Constitution Hall. At the time, Washington, D.C., was a segregated city and black patrons were upset that they had to sit at the back of Constitution Hall. Constitution Hall also did not have the segregated public bathrooms required by DC law at the time for such events. Thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned from the organization. In her resignation letter, she wrote, “I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist … You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.” Anderson ended up giving a concert to a multi-racial audience of over 75,000 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
- 1939 – Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday first performs “Strange Fruit” in New York City. The song, a protest against lynching, became a signature song for Holiday.
- 1939 – Baseball for kids: The Little League is formed, becoming the nation’s first non-segregated youth sport.
- 1943 – Chinese immigrants get the vote: In 1943, the Magnuson Act granted Chinese immigrants, including women, receive the right to vote. However, in many states, Chinese Americans (including US citizens) were denied property-ownership rights either by law or de facto, until the Magnuson Act itself was fully repealed in 1965.
- 1951 – The military de-segregates again: The United States Army high command announces it will desegregate the Army.
- 1952 – Japanese immigrant get the vote: The race restrictions of the 1790 Naturalization Law are repealed by the McCarran-Walter Act, giving first generation Japanese Americans, including women, citizenship and voting rights.
- 1955 – Emmett Till killed: The 14-year-old African American boy was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans in the United States. Till posthumously became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.
- 1957 – The next civil rights acts: At this time, only about 20% of black Americans were registered to vote, even in areas where they were a majority. President Eisenhower passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as a partial political response to the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which incorporated the concepts of “Equal Justice Under Law“. It was again supposed to provide federal protection for African-American voting rights. Though it was diluted to near- toothlessness, it did create did the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. (Note, more than two dozen of Trump’s judicial nominees have refused to comment on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the basis for many other decisions rejecting discrimination against, and bigotry towards, people belonging to various groups.)
- 1963 – The Equal Pay Act of 1963: This act prohibited wage differentials based on sex.
- 1964 – The 24th Amendment: This Amendment abolished poll taxes and literacy tests which were heavily used against African-American and poor white women and men.
- 1964- The Civil Rights Act we remember: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Like its 1875 predecessor, it prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. Unlike the short lived Reconstruction law however, its powers were enhanced with additional actions. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One(section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment, and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.
- 1965 – Voting Rights Act: This act prohibited racial discrimination in voting, resulting in greatly-increased voting by African American women and men.
- 1965 – Executive Order 11246: This order, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, established requirements for non-discriminatory practices in hiring and employment on the part of U.S. government contractors. Similar to protections Congress gave to individuals as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the order “prohibits federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
- 1967 – Loving v. Virginia: Landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage as violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. June 12th has been designated as “Loving Day”, though it is is the biggest multiracial celebration in the United States. it is still not an official holiday.
- 1969 – Stonewall Riots: Also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion,were a series of demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberationmovement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
- 1974 – First version of the Equality Act: The bill, which covered only sexual orientation, didn’t get a hearing for six years and faced opposition once it did, including allegations that being gay was an “abomination.”
- 1976 – Executive Order 11375: Johnson amended his own Executive Order 11246 by adding the category “sex” to the anti-discrimination provisions.
- 1969 – Executive Order 11478: Nixon prohibited discrimination in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and age.
- 1978 – The American Indian Religious Freedom Act – “The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 sought to provide for the accommodation of sacred sites on federal lands. The purpose of the Act was set forth in three parts: 1) to recognize the importance of Native religions to the identity of Native Americans, 2) to prevent any religious infringements that could result from insensitivity in enforcing federal policies and regulations, and 3) to protect Native American rights to sacred land and sites, while also protecting Natives from insensitive interference with the lands. However, the Act had three limitations that prevented it from effecting change: 1) the Act did not create legal rights of action or allow for substantive relief arising from agency violations, 2) the Act did not prohibit agencies from making choices that could harm sacred sites or religious practices, and 3) the Act is dependent on federal administrative goodwill to be implemented. Because there is no enforcement mechanism for the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the legislation is effectively useless.”
- 1993 – Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA): The RFRA was created by Senator Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) and at the time, it was viewed as a liberal bill – a rebuke to a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia that allowed Native Americans to be punished for using peyote in a religious ritual. Today, it is most often invoked to protect Christian small business owners from forced participation in gay weddings. A bill, HR 1450 would amend the RFRA to protect civil rights of third parties.
- 1996 – LGBT rights upheld in CO: In Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court strikes down Colorado’s Amendment 2, which denied gay and lesbian people protections against discrimination, calling them “special rights.” According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, “We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These protections . . . constitute ordinary civil life in a free society.”
- 1998 – Executive Order 13087: In 1998, Clinton amended Executive Order 11478 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce.
- 2000 – Vermont recognizes civil unions: Vermont becomes the first state in the country to legally recognize civil unions between gay or lesbian couples. The law states that these “couples would be entitled to the same benefits, privileges, and responsibilities as spouses.” It stops short of referring to same-sex unions as marriage, which the state defines as heterosexual.
- 2001 – Executive Order 13199: Bush signed the order to establish the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
- 2002 – Executive Order 13279: Bush signed “Equal protection of the laws for Faith-based and Community organizations.”
- 2003 – Lawrence v. Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”
- 2009 – Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: The act amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.
- 2012 – CA’s Prop. 8 repealed: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California rules 2–1 that Proposition 8, the 2008 referendum that banned same-sex marriage in state, is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In the ruling, the court says, the law “operates with no apparent purpose but to impose on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships.“
- 2013 – Allowing restricting on voting again: Because of Shelby County v. Holder, the Court invalidated the coverage formula for states that had been frequent violators of voter access before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court stated that disparate treatment of the states was “based on 40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day”. They were wrong, with several of the “pre-clearance” states re-instituting restrictions on voting. (scholars.org)
- 2013 – Employment Non-Discrimination Act doesn’t pass: “House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Thursday called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Senate-passed legislation extending workplace protections to LGBT people, “unnecessary,” and as such would lead to “frivolous lawsuits.” “I am opposed to discrimination of any kind in the work place and any place else,” Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of the Educational Workforce Committee long before I was back into leadership, is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits.
- 2014 – Executive Order 13672: In 2014, Obama amended Executive order 11246 and Nixon’s Executive Order 11478 to prohibit discrimination in the civilian federal workforce on the basis of gender identity and in hiring by federal contractors on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to religious groups concerned that he was rescinding exemptions the George W. Bush created in his own Executive Order 13279 from 2001
- 2014 – Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores: The United States Supreme Court allowed a closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to, if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest, according to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
- 2015 – The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: “The commission’s ruling, …hinged on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex in employment settings…the commission concluded that while the act did not explicitly prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, “an allegation of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination.”
- 2015 – Obergefell v. Hodges: The Supreme Court ruling extended the right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide
- 2016 – “Toilet Wars”: The Obama administration created guidelines to allow students may use bathrooms according to their self-identified gender.
- 2019 – Equality Act HR – 5: The Equality Act just passed the Democratic-controlled House, but supporters don’t have high hopes that it will be brought up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. And several efforts by the Trump Administration, such as pushing to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military, lend doubt to whether the President would sign it.
- 2019 – CA passes the CROWN Act: This new law provides all Californians the right to wear natural hairstyles without fear of repercussions, adding traits historically associated with race to the state’s list of classifications protected from discrimination. Students will be able to go to school, and workers do their jobs, without feeling pressure to change their appearance based on someone else’s “comfort level,” says the bill’s author Sen. Holly Mitchell.
- Trump’s plan to let employers discriminate against LGBTQ workers, explained
- It’s a political move with major consequences. (Vox)
- Warnings of ‘Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination’ Against LGBTQ Workers as Trump Pushes Religious Exemption Rule for Contractors ( CommonDreams)
- Religious Beliefs and Healthcare Necessities: Can they Coexist? (American Bar Association)
- End the use of religion to discriminate (ACLU)
- 7 maps show the mess LGBT laws are in the USA (USA today)
- the House just passed a sweeping LGBTQ rights bill (Vox)
- Discrimination and Harassment in the the workplace (by state) (NCSL)
- Equal Pay and Age Discrimination in the workplace (by state) (NCSL)
- Sex and Gender Discrimination in the workplace (NCSL)
- License to Discriminate: What to Watch for in 2019 with Faith-Based Protection Laws (UPDATED)(chronicleofsocialchange.org)
- Demolishing the right’s “Founding Myth”: America was never a “Christian nation” (salon)
- New Trump administration rule would allow ‘religious litmus test’ for federal contractors, advocates say (abc)
- Christian Right Loves Labor’s ‘License to Discriminate’ Rule (advocate)
- How Trump Is Reversing Obama’s Nondiscrimination Legacy (atlantic)
- Why it’s wrong to demand immigrants stay home and “Fix their own country”. (Reason)
- Oil lobbyist touts success in effort to criminalize pipeline protests, leaked recording shows (intercept)