ACLU sues for draft of Trump religious liberty order
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Trump administration for records on an executive order President Trump reportedly planned to release targeting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, the ACLU claimed the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, and Treasury violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release the records it requested on the reported draft order.
Under the order, the ACLU said Trump’s plan to grant a broad exemption to existing protections for LGBT individuals under the Affordable Care Act. The group says the order would have allowed government employees and taxpayer funded social services providers to discriminate against religious minorities, while authorizing discrimination against same-sex couples and unmarried mothers based on religious beliefs across a host of federal programs and services.
The ACLU said the order would have also allowed child welfare agencies that receive federal funding to put religious doctrines above the best interests of the children in their care.
“Although President Trump did not sign the executive order in February, the Trump administration is still actively considering similar plans to authorize religiously motivated discrimination in federal programs through new executive orders or regulations,” the ACLU said in its complaint.
“Plaintiff American Civil Liberties Union has therefore sought documents to uncover the details of the Trump Administration’s plans to authorize religious exemptions from nondiscrimination requirements.”
The group asked the federal district court to order the agencies to release all of the records it requested on March 3.
Under the Freedom of Information Act statute, an agency must determine whether to comply with a request for records within 20 days after it’s received, not including weekends and legal holidays. Administrations rarely meet the 20-day deadline.
It’s unclear whether the agencies even have to comply with the ACLU’s request.
According to the Department of Justice 2004 Freedom of Information Act Guide, draft documents can be exempt from release under the FOIA’s exemption.
“It should be remembered, though, that the very process by which a ‘draft’ evolves into a ‘final’ document can itself constitute a deliberative process warranting protection,” the guidance says.