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Ever-Growing Religious Exemption Laws Give Organizations and Individuals a License to Discriminate

New report details attack on LGBT people, women, families and health care

Denver, CO, October 17, 2017 — Today, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released a new report, Tipping the Scales: The Coordinated Attack on LGBT People, Women, Parents, Children, and Health Care, detailing the alarming and widespread push to pass a variety of religious exemptions laws that would give businesses, government agencies and individuals a right to discriminate on religious or moral grounds.

“The sheer volume and variety of these efforts to write religious exemptions into all areas of American life and law is incredibly disturbing,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). “Freedom of religion is a core American value, but religious freedom doesn't give anyone the right to discriminate, to harm, or to impose their religion on others. This is a coordinated effort to say that, as long as you have a religious objection, you shouldn't have to follow the law when it comes to hiring and firing employees, discrimination protections for customers and clients, providing health care, administering government services and issuing documentation, serving children and families in child welfare agencies, and the list just goes on.”

On October 6th, the Department of Justice issued sweeping guidance instructing federal agencies to provide significant leeway to staff and government contractors and grantees seeking religious exemptions from federal laws, rules and regulation, if they cite a religious belief as the reason for doing so. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services announced in early October a sweeping religious exemption allowing any employer or insurance company to refuse contraceptive coverage in their health benefits.

Tipping the Scales: The Coordinated Attack on LGBT People, Women, Parents, Children, and Health Care analyzes the mounting legislation and litigation across the country orchestrated to undermine nondiscrimination protections, comprehensive health care, and the regulations administering social and public services by inserting exemptions into the laws based on religious or moral beliefs. These attacks on the law include the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), state religious exemption laws in adoption and foster care, religious exemptions in health care including for reproductive care, denial of government services including marriages, denial of service in public businesses, the denial of employee benefits, and cases like the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

The report details the myriad ways religious exemption laws and lawsuits are being pushed forward, and their impact millions of Americans including 10 million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their children, 11.6 million single parents and children, 14.1 million unmarried couples, 62.4 million women who are eligible for birth control under the Affordable Care Act, and 1.6 million unmarried pregnant women.

Freedom of religion is a core American value, but religious freedom doesn't give anyone the right to discriminate, to harm, or to impose their religion on others. And most Americans agree. According to a September 2017 PRRI survey, 72% of Americans support laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The same survey found that 68% of the public oppose allowing agencies that receive federal funding to refuse placing children with gay or lesbian people.

For more information about the report, visit:

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MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

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The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

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