Trump’s “Religious Liberty” Executive Order Doesn’t Explicitly Target Gay People but It’s Still Horrifying

After a delusional introduction by Vice-President Pence — which actually included the words “Our president is a believer. He loves his family and his country. He has an unshakable faith in God and the American people.” — President Trump strode into the White House rose garden this morning and had the audacity to quote Martin Luther King Jr. while preparing to sign his “religious liberty” executive order.

No one has seen the actual text of the EO, but according to officials, the faith leaders who attended the signing this morning were “expecting a broadly worded executive order that would free religious institutions from Obama-era regulations intended to protect gays, lesbians and others from discrimination” but were instead met with promises to “protect religious liberty” by allowing religious healthcare workers/institutions to opt out of providing contraception and other reproductive health services that were mandated by the Affordable Care Act and dial back enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious institutions with tax-exempt statuses from engaging in political lobbying, including endorsing candidates to their congregations.

As Rachel mentioned yesterday, Trump had planned to roll out this Executive Order in February, but after The Nation obtained a copy, Trump walked it back into the shadows to tweak the language about LGBTQ people.

Nevertheless, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis weighed in immediately after Trump’s speech to remind Americans that Trump’s EO is a slippery slope.

And the ACLU has already promised to take Trump to court (again) over it.

When Trump’s first attempt at this EO stalled and he decided not to roll back the Obama administration’s 2014 executive order that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors, Mike Pence praised his “generous spirit” and said “there’s no room for prejudice” in Trump’s “patriot’s heart.” Which is almost as intellectually dishonest as his introduction in the rose garden this morning. What I wrote at the time is still true:

The truth is that even if Trump never signs a pointedly anti-LGBT executive order into law, LGBTQ people are already being harmed by his xenophobic, Islamophobic and racist administration, because LGBTQ people belong to all of those groups targeted by them. And even if Trump doesn’t personally want to target LGBTQ people, it’s clear that he’s not competent enough to stand in the way of the GOP members who have been working to do so for years in the form of bathroom bills, RFRAs, and more.

Today’s EO isn’t a victory for LGBT people. It’s a strategic move that will empower individual state legislatures to introduce more discriminatory bills without the fear of pushback from the federal government. It’s a signal to the Religious Right that they can continue their oppression propaganda, persisting with the false narrative that they’re under attack for being forced to not discriminate; basking in the privileges white Christians have always enjoyed in the country, while cheering Trump’s mandates for non-Christians to be banned or persecuted. Trump doesn’t want to deal with LGBTQ activists, but he’s happy to legitimize discrimination even if he’s not legalizing it.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. I wish there were words to even say in response to this. I’m thankful for the ACLU and similar institutions that are poised to navigate the system in an attempt to make it work for everyone.

    I’m just so utterly terrified of the combination of the unintentional and willful blindness that privilege can create, mixed with the truly evil elements that don’t just think people unlike them don’t matter, or are useful to attack to solidify political power (as if those things aren’t horrifying enough), but that they are truly targets to be destroyed.

  2. I’m mad.
    Disappointed too, but not at all surprised.
    Which brings us right baaaaack to angry disappointment.

    Fuck this administration and the wave of ignorance, fear and hate they rode in on.

  3. Thank you for giving him a different face in the featured image…I just. can’t. look at his face anymore. He looks better this way, more relatable.

  4. I don’t know what to say to any of this. The world is growing darker by the minute. Anger and active retaliation seem to be the only option. Keep flooding these creatures with the opprobrium that they richly deserve.

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