by Fred Kuhr
Attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on behalf of the Washington Blade and one of its reporters.
The suit, filed on September 15, seeks to compel the U.S. Department of Labor to release emails the newspaper requested to find out whether government officials tried to undermine regulations intended to protect LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination.
In the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Reporters Committee attorneys argue that the Labor Department violated FOIA by failing to comply with statutory deadlines and withholding agency records in response to a public records request submitted more than a year ago by Chris Johnson, the Washington Blade’s Chief White House reporter.
Johnson’s FOIA request specifically sought email correspondence involving certain Labor Department officials that mentioned the words “religion” or “religious” between January 2017 and August 2019.
The newspaper is seeking the Labor Department’s emails to learn more about a rule change proposed by the Trump administration in August 2019 that would allow federal contractors to make hiring decisions based on their religious beliefs — a change opponents feared may lead to discrimination against LGBTQ workers.
The Washington Blade’s complaint asks the court to order the Labor Department to search its records and immediately disclose all non-exempt records responsive to Johnson’s FOIA request.
“We’re committed to our mission of holding the Trump Administration accountable for its actions affecting LGBTQ people and marginalized communities,” said Johnson. “Our readers deserve to know the motivation for the Department of Labor’s proposal to undercut President Obama’s 2014 executive order, which brought long-sought protections for LGBTQ people working for federal contractors.”
“This is another example of the Trump Administration obfuscating and shirking its responsibilities to transparency,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “Thank you to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for joining us in this effort to hold the administration accountable and to get answers to these important questions.”
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