Religious Right & Anti-LGBTQ Members of Congress Object to Job Discrimination Provisions in Trade Agreement

Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver

Anti-LGBTQ legal group Liberty Counsel is demanding that the U.S. Senate remove protections against job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity that are included in the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Liberty Counsel’s press release, perhaps to avoid criticizing the Trump administration, suggests that the provision is due to some sort of deep state skullduggery:

However, some drafter, in the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, perhaps under pressure from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, slipped in language in the labor provision. Articles 23.9 and 23.1(5)(l)(i) read: “Sex-Based Discrimination in the Workplace: The Parties recognize the goal of eliminating sex-based discrimination in employment and occupation, and support the goal of promoting equality of women in the workplace. Accordingly, each Party shall implement policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity, and caregiving responsibilities, provide job-protected leave for birth or adoption of a child and care of family members, and protect against wage discrimination” (emphasis added).

Legal protection against anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace is supported by a super-majority of the American people—70 percent support such protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, while only 23 percent oppose them.

But to the Religious Right, such protections amount to “special rights.” Religious Right activists who have taken jobs in the Trump Administration have been working to roll back legal protections for LGBTQ people put into place during the Obama administration. And Religious Right groups want that to continue.

Liberty Counsel warns that if the treaty is ratified, it would “elevate ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as special rights to the highest level and thus be used to determine the outcome of cases inconsistent with existing law and legal precedent.” And Liberty Counsel claims that including the language in the treaty would “provide direct conflict with many existing laws, precedent, and religious liberty and conscience rights.”

Liberty Counsel is promoting a letter to President Trump signed by 40 Religious Right-allied members of Congress who shower praise on the Trump administration’s moves against LGBTQ legal protections and express deep concern about the treaty language:

At the same time your Administration is carrying out a cohesive agenda regarding policies surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, in the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services specifically, it is deeply troubling that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has included contradictory language in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy. It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept. One wonders at the contradictory policy coming through USTR when other Departments under your Administration are working to come into alignment on SOGI policy.

Religious Right groups work hard at the United Nations and in other international tribunals to try to prevent any recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people from getting into international agreements, a concern also raised by the members’ letter:

The inclusion of SOGI as part of the definition of “sex” in a trade agreement or the elevation of SOGI to the level of sex will cause unnecessary confusion in future international treaties as well as domestic laws and policies. It sets a dangerous precedent for courts and future Administrations to build on.”

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said that Trump “must insist that social policy that overrides our sovereignty be removed from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.” Staver called the provisions both “a poison pill” and “a Trojan horse that could be used like a wrecking ball against federal and state laws to advance an LGBT agenda on private employers.”