A law change announced last week by the Obama administration could take away federal contracts from religious relief organizations and charities that adhere to traditional views of gender and sexuality.
According to the law, National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice said the rule prohibits organizations that contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development from discriminating because of gender identity and sexual orientation when distributing aid.
Each year, private contractors and non-profits receive about $16 billion from USAID for poverty, schools and fighting diseases, but this new rule threatens that funding.
“As part of that commitment, I’m pleased to note that just yesterday a new rule went into effect that explicitly prohibits discrimination by USAID contractors. This rule means that any organization that contracts with USAID must ensure that all people can benefit from its federally funded programs, regardless of race, religion, disability — or sexual orientation and gender identity,” Rice said.
“It’s a major step toward ensuring that American assistance is provided in a fair and equitable manner,” she said.
But others, like Roger Severino, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, are worried the rule will cause more problems.
“Of course everyone that is eligible for aid should receive it, but the new rule is a solution in search of a problem and threatens religious aid organizations that provide vital services in reasonable and culturally sensitive ways,” Severino said. “For example, disaster relief agencies may now be required to open their women’s shower and sleeping facilities to biological males who self-identify as women or be stripped of all funding for alleged ‘gender identity discrimination.’”
Said Nate Madden, of the Conservative Review: "The newest USAID rule is more than the latest in a long line of affronts and hostilities to traditional religious belief by the Obama administration; it's also a further delineation of priorities.”
The Human Rights Campaign is now asking that the U.S. continue to expand the rule to cover discrimination in employment as well.
“While this is a step forward, we ultimately hope to see all implementers across all U.S. foreign affairs agencies — including USAID — include nondiscrimination policies that cover not only the services they provide, but also the people they hire,” said David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of government affairs. “No organization supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars should turn anyone away because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Publication date: November 2, 2016