A new federal gender mandate

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 9th of February, 2021. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we are so glad to have you along today. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: a transgender directive.

President Joe Biden issued 29 executive orders in his first three weeks in office. He signed one of the most significant on day one. It’s a mouthful. The Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.

REICHARD: The order calls for federal agencies to end what the Biden administration defines as discrimination against those who identify as transgender or gay. Last week we told you how that could affect women’s sports. Now WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports on the order’s other far-reaching effects.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Nightlight Christian Adoptions works with foster care systems in six states. Daniel Nehrbass heads the organization.  

NEHRBASS: These are children who are wards of the state. They’re in state custody. And the state has the prerogative to choose which organizations they’re going to place their children with, for supervision of their care.

But some state and county governments won’t work with religious organizations that refuse to place children with gay or transgender couples. 

For instance, Colorado and California require adoption agencies to be willing to place children with same-sex couples. 

Despite that demand, Nightlight has chosen to continue its work with those state foster care agencies. Although, Nehrbass says, so far, it’s been able to work around those requirements.

NEHRBASS: We have had same sex couples come to our trainings. But to date, we have not had any same sex couples continue with the training beyond the first session. 

Other states give Nighlight complete freedom to determine which families it wants to work with. States like South Carolina. 

Nehrbass says President Biden’s executive order could change that. 

That’s because in order for states to receive federal foster care funds, they’d have to comply with federal demands.

And under the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination, states couldn’t contract with Christian adoption agencies that don’t want to work with same-sex or transgender couples.

NEHRBASS: Let’s take South Carolina as an example. If they currently don’t have a stipulation in their contract, that the agencies must place with same sex couples, then presumably, the next step would be for the state of South Carolina, to demand each of its counties to put that in their contract. And then the contract that we have in South Carolina would have to change. 

This is just one of the many potential effects of President Biden’s executive order.

Matt Sharp is an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. He says the order could affect any organization that receives federal funds and adheres to scientific and biblical teachings on marriage, sexuality and gender. 

The order finds its legal grounding in a 2020 Supreme Court ruling called Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia. In that case, the court ruled an employer can’t fire someone for being gay or transgender. 

Matt Sharp says the Biden administration is using that opinion to end religious and conscience objections to the gay and transgender lifestyle. But Sharp says that’s a flawed legal interpretation of the Bostock ruling.

SHARP: The court was very clear that it was, it was basing its understanding of sex on the biological understanding. And so the court was not expanding the understanding or rewriting these into federal law. Number two, the court was very clear that this ruling, it’s rolling only applies to Title VII in the employment context. And it very clearly said this does not apply to other federal laws. 

If the Biden administration does end religious exemptions, Christian colleges could face immediate repercussions. 

SHARP: I think there’s a very real risk that this could impact religious colleges. One of the big sources of funding is those Pell Grants, and federally backed student loans and things like that, that a lot of students are able to use to go to the faith based College of their choice. 

And the executive order could place new demands on women’s shelters

SHARP: It’s going to put the same demands on every shelter, that a women’s only shelter has to open its doors to biological males, without regard for the safety or security concerns of the women that those shelters serve. 

Sharp also points to what it could mean for federal women’s prisons. 

SHARP: And so one of the big concerns is what is this going to mean for women? Are they going to be forced to allow a male to be housed in the same cell as them in the same facilities as them?

Big changes could also be in store for healthcare. 

Roger Severino headed up the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights during the Trump administration. He says President Biden’s order would affect how hospitals identify and treat biological men and women… which could affect patient health. 

SEVERINO: There are many biological sex differences that matter tremendously to the practice of medicine, the events of research and science.

Severino says he’s also concerned about what will happen to conscience objection  protections for doctors and nurses. 

SEVERINO: I would hope there’d be very little change, because civil rights should not be a political hot potato. 

ADF’s Matt Sharp says the order could also roll back Trump-era protections for private businesses that don’t want to pay for employee contraception or sex-change surgeries. 

SHARP: This is going to implicate not just contraception, abortion abortifacients. But getting into gender identity surgeries, and other things that violate those principles and beliefs of private employers. 

Agencies have less than 80 days to issue their proposed policy changes. Right now, these trickle down effects are speculation, but Roger Severino says most signs indicate there are many legal battles ahead—between religious freedom advocates and the country’s new leaders. 

SEVERINO: What I’ve seen from the Biden administration so far, is they’re going to rush headlong towards ideology over science. I hope that’s not the case. But those are the initial indications.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden signs an executive order on immigration, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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