People For the American Way filed suit in federal court today against the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demand the release of documents concerning reported changes in federal policy toward LGBTQ people.
Last year Right Wing Watch, a project of PFAW, filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both agencies asking for documents on reported actions removing mentions of LGBTQ people from federal programs. All of these reported actions were being taken quietly and without public announcement, raising the questions of which agency or other official directed that the actions be taken, why, the scope of the decisions, and whether agency staff had been directed to implement certain policies regarding programs for LGBTQ people without public knowledge.
“There’s absolutely no reason why the these agencies should refuse to release these documents,” said Elliot Mincberg, Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. “The public has a right to know what directives are being handed down that resulted in LGBTQ people being written out of federal programs and activities. These under-the-radar changes can have a massive effect on the way our government works, and it appears Trump administration officials are trying to create secret agency laws in order to push their extreme agenda. That’s simply not permissible. We have a right to see these documents and we’re going to court to get them.”
In August, Right Wing Watch asked HUD for copies of any directives to pull back from efforts to combat LGBTQ homelessness after New York magazine reported that department leadership had:
… ordered the removal of online training materials meant, in part, to help homeless shelters make sure they were providing equal access to transgender people. It also pulled back a survey regarding projects in Cincinnati and Houston to reduce LGBT homelessness. And it forced its Policy Development and Research division to dissociate itself from a major study it had funded on housing discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people — the study ended up being released in late June under the aegis of the Urban Institute instead.
In September, after The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice had “scrubbed references to ‘L.G.B.T.Q. youth’ from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking,” Right Wing Watch asked DOJ for any directives related to that action as well.
Although the deadlines for fulfilling these requests have long past, neither agency has produced any responsive documents.
Right Wing Watch also recently filed a FOIA request with the Department of Health and Human Services regarding similar decisions to remove references to LGBTQ people from agency policies.
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.