"Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status", Mr. Sessions wrote.
"Any transgender Oregonian may file a civil rights complaint with our agency", Avakian continued.
For example, Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the guidance could allow a religious employer to fire an employee who had a child out of wedlock or fire an employee who married a same-sex partner.
This "conclusion of law, not policy" will be the department's position in all "pending and future matters", he added.
Expand | Collapse (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. on September 5, 2017.
The 25-page memo maps out 20 guiding principles reminding agencies that freedom of religion is a fundamental right and that the free exercise of religion "includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one's religious beliefs".
"Because PSN is a department priority, I will hold each United States attorney accountable for results", Sessions stated in a memo to USA attorneys across the country.
Justice Department policy as outlined in the new memo "will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families", Griffin concluded.
The "stroke of a pen" argument is inherently weak. Analysts said the Justice Department seemed to be interpreting broadly a recent Supreme Court ruling that said efforts at separating church and state go too far when they deny religious institutions access to government grants meant for a secular goal. More importantly, taking the issue to Congress will spark a debate on the issue of transgenderism, and the last thing transgender activists want is to have to justify to the American people why someone making a personal choice about his gender should be granted the same protections given to blacks, women, and others who are born a minority or female.
In response to President Donald Trump's executive order in May, which called on the Department of Justice to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law and guide all agencies in compliance, the Justice Department issued a sweeping guidance on religious freedom that was released Friday.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said: "Today's guidance by Jeff Sessions proves this Administration will do anything possible to categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law".