feature image artistic credit goes to Laneia
On Tuesday, the White House announced they would keep Obama’s protections barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for federal workers and contractors. The decision apparently came directly from Trump. He’s super proud that he’s “the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.” LOL, like he doesn’t perpetuate violence and oppression all day, every day to all marginalized people.
The announcement was made after rumors circulated on Monday that Trump was going to sign an executive order that would allow discrimination against LGBT people on the grounds of religious freedom. Although the White House made it clear they wouldn’t undo Obama’s protections, that doesn’t mean they’re not also going to support religious exemptions, which is the vehicle Republicans — and the Vice President, Mike Pence — have been trying to legalize discrimination against LGBT folks in recent years. In other words, there’s always the chance Trump could add an exemption to Obama’s directive by allowing individuals and businesses to discriminate based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He could also issue a separate executive order, or support anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation. This announcement is not a win for LGBT folks but a temporary calm before the storm. Just like everything that Trump has done so far, people’s rights are being upended by every executive action and order he makes — like the ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries, for one — and those communities all include LGBT people, so simply claiming that for right now, he’s not going to go backwards on some protections isn’t commendable. Trump and his administration are still just as dangerous and threatening to LGBT rights as they always have been.
Over the weekend, a draft of a potential executive order circulated in Washington that would overturn Obama’s directive barring discrimination against LGBT federal employees and contractors. The draft included multiple provisions, including exemptions for adoption agencies and other groups receiving federal funds to deny LGBT people services based on their religious beliefs. LGBTQ Nation first reported that an anti-LGBT executive order was in the pipeline according to their sources. They mentioned the orders could also make “taxpayer funds available for discrimination against LGBTQ people in social services”; “allow federal employees to refuse to serve people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman”; and make gender “an immutable characteristic set at birth.” The Washington Post notes The White House hasn’t specifically addressed these possible changes.
At a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied Trump was going to sign an executive order on the grounds of “religious freedom” that could undermine LGBT rights. “I’m not going to get ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue,” Spicer said. “There’s a lot of executive orders, a lot of things the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
While Trump may not personally want to dismantle already set LGBT protections, his colleagues sure do. They’re showing it by reintroducing the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah have both publicly stated they would reintroduce the bill this year. According to NBCNews:
FADA would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
The bill had a brief moment in 2015 but was quickly shut down by Democrats. Now with a Republican-controlled House and with Trump’s election and his promise to back it up, it’s more than likely to pass this year. Even more disturbing, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is not only a vocal proponent of the legislation, he’s one of the bill’s original sponsors, which has complicated his confirmation. In addition, Vice President Mike Pence has always been anti-LGBT by supporting conversion therapy and passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act while governor of Indiana.
Even if Trump doesn’t sign an executive order to destroy LGBT rights this week, conservative politicians are still fighting every day to keep us down, and he’s proven he won’t be an ally to LGBT people or any other marginalized group against them.