Yesterday, reports emerged that President Donald Trump was reviewing the draft of another alarming executive order, one that would roll back existing protections barring discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Then late last night, the White House released a statement saying Trump will continue to enforce existing non-discrimination protections that apply to LGBTQ employees of federal contractors. But there could be some wiggle room in that answer. The question remains whether he will instead create new religious exemptions that would still result in discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and families.
Although the text of the draft order has not been disclosed, there’s speculation that it would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination. Some reports say that the executive order would add an exemption to current law that would allow federal contractors (which employ a fifth of the country’s workforce) to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people with taxpayer funds.
Trump's next executive order may undermine the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Other reports maintain that the draft order could be so radical and sweeping that it would actually allow organizations to take federal dollars to perform services for the public but then use religious objections as an excuse to deny those services to people who are LGBTQ.
Imagine a federal contractor having the right to fire a man who marries his partner or a taxpayer-funded program for at-risk youth being able to turn away a trans girl. This would cause real harm to real people.
Any executive order that would permit LGBTQ discrimination would be indefensible. Taxpayer-funded discrimination in any guise is wrong. And discrimination imposed under the cloak of religious freedom actually undermines that fundamental liberty. Religious freedom should never be used to justify harming or discriminating against others; that principle clearly does not entitle a federal contractor or social service provider to take taxpayer dollars and then use that money to harm or discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Unfortunately, signing such an executive order would not be out of character for this new president. Friday’s executive order issuing a de facto Muslim ban demonstrates that he is willing to sign a discriminatory executive order that offends religious freedom and scapegoats entire communities for what he believes is a short-term political gain.
Trump may claim to be a friend to the LGBTQ community, but he has made promises to his far-right base that would cause the community great harm. On the campaign trail, for example, he promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that would allow individuals, businesses, taxpayer-funded social service providers, and even government employees to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against same-sex couples. He also chose Mike Pence, infamous for signing the Indiana anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law when he was governor, as his vice-president. And he has promised to name a Supreme Court nominee “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.”
Experience shows, however, that such an executive order will backfire on Trump. Just look at the thousands of people (and lawyers) who took to the streets and the airports this weekend to protest his Muslim ban. If Trump signs this executive order, he will likely suffer the same backlash experienced in states like North Carolina because of its anti-LGBTQ law and in Indiana and Mississippi because of their discriminatory “religious freedom” laws.
This administration’s promise to leave in place existing protections against LGBTQ discrimination may seem like a glimmer of hope in the chaos of the last 10 days, but let’s not give them too much credit. It only demonstrates that we have low expectations for this administration and that we’re bracing for an all-out onslaught on equality and justice.
We at Americans United know the administration can still take action to harm our LGBTQ neighbors in the name of religion, and if it happens, we’ll be ready to fight back.