U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has concluded that a 1964 federal civil rights law does not protect transgender employees from discrimination.
"Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others", the Associated Press noted.
"The constitutional protection of religious beliefs and the right to exercise those beliefs have served this country well, have made us one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and have also helped make us the freeist and most generous".
It adds: "Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law". "Therefore, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting, and programming".
The order clarifies that the protections apply "not just to individuals, but also to organisations, associations, and at least some for-profit corporations". The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group, called the guidelines an "all-out assault" on civil rights and a "sweeping license to discriminate".
Federal contractors to deny services to LGBTQ people.
When asked if U.S. attorneys will have to meet certain benchmarks or will now be graded by their efforts to reduce crime rates in their cities, a DOJ official said the department is asking them to "track" violent crime numbers but recognized reversing current trends won't happen overnight and it doesn't expect them to "flip a switch".
The most immediate effect seemed to be on the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate.More news: United Nations fears "further exodus" of Muslim Rohingya into Bangladesh
Furthermore, the guidance says, religious freedom is more than the right to worship or believe privately. "It is countenancing exercises of faith in a way that will harm other individuals".
DNC spokesperson Joel Kasnetz said: "If Jeff Sessions is attacking LGBTQ people, it must be a day that ends in a 'y'. This is a freedom that has been a fundamental part of our society since the beginning of our nation". "Donald Trump and [Vice President] Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards".
There had been several warning signs that the Trump administration was planning such a move.
Trump announced plans for the directive last May in a Rose Garden ceremony where he was surrounded by religious leaders.
LGBT rights group Freedom for All Americans pointed to cases it said established a precedent for extending Title VII protections to gender identity - including the Supreme Court's 1989 ruling in the Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins case that found that sex discrimination includes sex stereotyping.
However, the final version of the order was edited to remove the explicitly anti-LGBT language, which would have been extremely vulnerable to a legal challenge.
The 11th Circuit has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was sacked because she meant to transition from male to female, though the complaint in that case was brought under the Equal Protection Clause and not Title VII.