LGBTQ activists react to Justice Department defense of Title IX religious exemption

LGBTQ advocates are criticizing the Justice Department for a court filing in which the DOJ wrote it would “vigorously” defend a religious exemption that allows federally funded religious colleges and universities to discriminate against minorities. The DOJ also said, in relation to the Hunter v. the U.S. Department of Education case, that the Department of Education and Christian schools “share the same ‘ultimate objective’ … to uphold the Religious Exemption as it is currently applied.” The wording has since been amended in the court filings. The Department of Justice is responsible for defending federal statutes in court, and the filing now reads that it will “adequately” defend the case. LGBTQ activists have said that the language initially used implied that the DOJ condoned and supported discrimination against LGBTQ students, which goes against President Joe Biden’s past statements on protections for this community. “There’s a difference between doing their job in a professional, appropriate way … and expressing it as an enthusiastic commitment to achieving a particular result,” said Jennifer Pizer, the law and policy director for Lambda Legal, a legal organization that focuses on LGBTQ rights. She said that there’s a misunderstanding about what it means to provide equal justice under the law for LGBTQ people, saying that the foundations of religious freedom shouldn’t encourage or allow discrimination against marginalized persons. “It’s not a religious freedom to hurt other people,” she added. “The legal question is how do we find the right relationship between freedom to exercise one’s religious beliefs and where that freedom stops when it would start to cause harm to other people, to create inequality for other people.”