Joe Biden is facing criticism from LGBT+ rights campaigners after his justice department backed federally funded Christian schools in a discrimination case.
In a court filing in Oregon on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) informed a court that its interests were “identical” to faith schools discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It continued by offering its backing for Christian schools to be exempt from federal laws banning LGBT+ discrimination. The schools in question are funded in part by the US government.
According to The Washington Post, the DoJ’s wording of its“vigorous” defence of the Christian schools outraged campaigners, and caught many off guard.
“What this means is that the government is now aligning itself with anti-LGBTQ hate in order to vigorously defend an exemption that everyone knows causes severe harm to LGBTQ students using taxpayer money,” said Paul Carlos Southwick, who filed the case in March on behalf of current and former students of Christian schools.
“It will make our case harder if the federal government plans to vigorously defend it like they have indicated,” he told The Post:
It came almost three months after the case, filed in the US District Court in Oregon, asked for “safety and justice” for 40 students others and “whose oppression, fuelled by government funding, and unrestrained by government intervention, persists with injurious consequences to mind, body and soul,”
“The Department’s inaction leaves students unprotected from the harms of conversion therapy, expulsion, denial of housing and healthcare, sexual and physical abuse and harassment, as well as the less visible, but no less damaging, consequences of institutionalised shame, fear, anxiety and loneliness,” it continued.
After the DoJ argued that it “shares the same ultimate objective” as the Christian schools, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities — whose effort to join the case was thrown out on Tuesday — told The Post it was relieved to see the Biden administration saying it wants to “defend religious exemptions”.
Mr Biden, for his part, has pushed for the passage of the Equality Act through Congress, while the US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of plaintiffs citing the civil rights law known as Title IX, in cases of anti-LGBT+ discrimination.
The issue comes to a head at a crucial time for LGBT+ rights campaigners, with more than 75 laws targeting transgender individuals introduced in the US so far in 2021, according to figures from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
The Independent has reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.