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A religious liberty task force and potential new census questions will affect LGBTQ people 

click to enlarge Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks a religious liberty task force is necessary to protect Christians from discrimination. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks a religious liberty task force is necessary to protect Christians from discrimination.

In national politics related to LGBTQ issues, the bad news tends to outweigh the good anymore.

Starting on a positive note, a group of Democratic senators announced on July 31 that they plan to introduce a bill in Congress that will require the census to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. This has been a long battle, which looked to be nearly won in 2016 until Trump’s Department of Justice decided there was “no federal data need” for such information. Never mind that four federal agencies under Obama (including the DOJ) recommended these questions be added to the American Community Survey in the first place.

But now, should the Census Equality Act become law, the 2030 census would include questions about LGBTQ identities, providing much-needed national data that could help shine a light on a huge portion of the population that has never been counted by the census. Experts say this could help with research behind housing and employment discrimination, among other discrimination issues.

In the meantime, the 2020 census will at least include a distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex couples, but this information obviously doesn’t touch on transgender and nonbinary identities, or LGB people who are not in a relationship.

In much worse news, the federal government continues to justify Christian nationalist claims that Christians face discrimination from LGBTQ people. On July 30, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a “religious liberty task force” of the Department of Justice. While religious liberty, in concept, is obviously a fundamental right of all Americans, this task force is clearly responding to an ongoing national conversation about “discrimination” against Christians by minority groups.

Many Christian organizations (including Alliance Defending Freedom, at whose summit this task force was announced), believe that LGBTQ Americans mean to threaten the religious freedoms of Christian people and destabilize the moral (read: Christian) backbone of our society.

In the recently resolved Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Masterpiece Cakeshop argued that baking a wedding cake for a gay couple would have violated their own religious beliefs. It is this argument — the idea that LGBTQ people discriminate against Christians by demanding their own rights be protected — that has spawned new discussions about “religious freedom” that center Christianity.

The argument has bled into matters of adoption and childcare, with Republicans attempting to offer religious exemptions to organizations who do not wish to serve LGBTQ people. (That sounds like discrimination.) Such religious exemption bills have been introduced all over the country in recent years, from our own Colorado to (more recently) the national stage. Ten U.S. states have enacted these “license to discriminate” laws. Thankfully, Colorado isn’t one of them.

Sessions’ task force is just another indication that the Trump administration is no friend to LGBTQ people or religious minorities.

But, hey, if we finally get our identities on the census, we’ll at least be able to quantify how many American people the Trump administration actively hates. (Hint: It’s anyone who isn’t planning to check the boxes “straight,” “white,” “male,” and “American citizen.”)

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