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White House invokes ‘religious freedom’ to justify Trump’s actions

Comments on contraception mandate could apply to ‘religious freedom’ guidance

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah Huckabee Sanders invokes religious freedom to justifies Trump’s actions. (Screenshot via CSPAN)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended on Friday the end to the contraception mandate under Obamacare by asserting President Trump believes in “freedom of religion” — an often-used phrase to justify anti-LGBT discrimination that could apply other Trump administration actions.

Asked by the Fox Business Network about the American Civil Liberties Union’s threat to file a lawsuit in response to the reversal of the contraception mandate, Sanders argued the administration’s action was in line with President Trump’s belief in religious freedom.

“I don’t think it’s been a secret that I would probably never use the ACLU to get any of my talking points,” Sanders said. “The president believes the freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental right in this country, and I think all of us do, and that’s all that today was about. Our federal government should always protect that right, and as long as Donald Trump is president, he will.”

Although the comments were made in response to the end of the contraception mandate, they could also be construed as a defense to the “religious freedom” guidance U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued on the same day, which critics say could lead to anti-LGBT discrimination.

Pressed on what she’d say to women who fear losing their contraception coverage as result of the Trump administration’s actions, Sanders returned to religious liberty.

“This is a president who supports the First Amendment, supports the freedom of religion,” Sanders said. “I don’t think I understand why that should be an issue. The Supreme Court has validated this decision certainly many times over. And the president is somebody who believes in the Constitution. If people don’t like what the Constitution says, they should talk to Congress about changing it.”

The reference to the U.S. Supreme Court was likely a reference to its 2015 decision in the Hobby Lobby case, although that was decided on a statutory basis under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the U.S. Constitution.

When NBC News asked if the Trump administration is prepared to fight all the way back to the Supreme Court, Sanders said justices have “already made clear what their position is, and it supports what this administration has done.”

Sanders predicted victory when asked if she’s confident the issue wouldn’t return to the Supreme Court.

“I think if it does, it will show that this administration is on the right side of the law,” Sanders said.

Ian Thompson, legislative director for the ACLU, said using “religious freedom” to justify the actions of the Trump administration is totally off base.

“Contrary to the Justice Department guidance, religious freedom does not allow anyone to impose their beliefs onto others, or to discriminate or harm,” Thompson said. “The administration’s disgraceful actions today advance discrimination, not religious freedom.”

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Two arrested for lesbian couple’s murder, dismemberment in Mexico border city

Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez killed earlier this month

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From left: Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez</strong. (Photo via Facebook)

Two people have been arrested in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a lesbian couple in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez.

The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday announced authorities arrested a 25-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man and charged them with aggravated femicide.

Authorities on Jan. 16 found the dismembered body parts of Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez in plastic bags that had been placed along the Juárez-El Porvenir Highway. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office in a press release notes the suspects murdered Ramírez and Medina in a house in Ciudad Juárez’s San Isidro neighborhood on Jan. 15.

Ciudad Juárez, which is located in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Members of Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, a local LGBTQ rights group, and Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván are among those who have expressed outrage over the women’s murders. Activists have also urged local and state authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime based on Ramírez and Medina’s sexual orientation.

Local media reports said nine women — including Ramírez and Medina — were killed in Ciudad Juárez from Jan. 1-15.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Virginia

Two anti-LGBTQ bills die in Va. Senate

Democrats maintain 21-19 majority in chamber

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-LGBTQ bills died in the Virginia Senate on Thursday.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted against state Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County)’s Senate Bill 20, which would have eliminated the requirement that school districts must implement the Virginia Department of Education’s transgender and non-binary student guidelines.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in an 8-7 vote tabled state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 177, a religious freedom measure that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing.

Virginia’s statewide nondiscrimination law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Peake’s bill would have removed “the provision of the exemption for religious organizations under the Virginia Fair Housing Law that denies such exemption where the membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability.”

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office three days later.

Democrats, who maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill.

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