Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups enraged over language in leaked “religious freedom” order

Order's religious exemptions would undermine earlier decision leaving an Obama nondiscrimination order intact

Donald Trump, Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Despite assurances from two presidential spokespeople, many LGBTQ groups are choosing not to trust the White House’s messages on the issue of potential discrimination.

Throughout his campaign for the presidency and since taking office, Trump has tried to appeal to two diametrically opposed groups: the LGBTQ community and the Religious Right.

On the one hand, Trump has vowed to be a “friend” to the LGBTQ community and has made overtures indicating he supports prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, Trump has also — sometimes even within the same news cycle — pandered to religious conservatives by boasting of his support for legislation or an executive order that would allow them to refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people.

That’s why when The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute broke the news of a draft executive order on “religious freedom,” many LGBTQ groups pounced. The leaked order would provide special protections for people opposed to homosexuality, transgenderism, same-sex marriage or extramarital sex.

Such religious objectors could refuse services or goods to LGBT people in a variety of areas, including in social services, education, or healthcare. They could also fire or refuse to hire LGBTQ people as employees, deny them employee benefits or refuse to provide insurance coverage for certain treatments or prescriptions, and still be entitled to receive special tax breaks and government grants or contracts.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to comment on the leaked draft, saying: “There’s right now no executive orders that are official or able to read out. We maintain there’s nothing new on that front.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said the president had no plans to sign any such order “at this time.”

Few LGBTQ groups seem willing to trust the president, particularly in light of the leaked draft.

Dr. Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, said that the order would “allow health and counseling professionals to deny LGBTQ youth life-saving services, and it would allow school leaders to force some students to use separate and unequal facilities and deny them equal educational opportunities.” Byard also noted that LGBTQ educators or administrators could be fired without cause because the language of the executive order is overly broad.

“In his speech today at the National Prayer Breakfast, Donald Trump stated his goal is an America where ‘all of our citizens can feel safe and secure’ and ‘our most vulnerable citizens have a path to success,'” she added. “This executive order does completely the opposite for millions of Americans.”

“Make no mistake: this shameful, sweeping, and unconstitutional order would be about firing people and denying them health care and other government services simply because of who they are,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said. “It is about federal officials refusing to do their jobs if it involves helping people they don’t like. It is about federal grantees turning away people who are homeless, hungry, or in danger because they are transgender. Taxpayer dollars should not come with a free pass to discriminate.”

Mark Snyder, of the Equality Federation, called the draft executive order “staggeringly broad” in the exemptions it gives to religious objectors. Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said the leaked draft “trashes the separation of church an state and aims to combine them,” and “twists freedom or religion and and freedom from religion to justify this amoral action.”

LGBTQ legal organization Lambda Legal called the leaked order a “direct attack” on LGBTQ people, people living with HIV, and other marginalized groups. The organization also threatened to sue the Trump administration if they issued an order that granted people, government workers, and businesses the ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The immediate public outcry in response to the leaked order confirmed what we already know: people overwhelmingly reject discrimination against LGBT people and don’t want taxpayer money to fund hatred,” Lambda Legal CEO Rachel Tiven said in a statement. “Bigotry — whether against LGBT people, women, Muslim immigrants or refugees — has no place in our country.”

But some right-leaning LGBTQ people were skeptical of the rush to judgment.

“We have no comment on draft executive orders, especially orders that the President indicated today he will not be signing,” said Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Joseph Murray, II, administrator for the Facebook page LGBTrump, says liberal-leaning groups are overplaying their hand in trying to cast Trump as anti-LGBTQ. He pointed to their response to reports that Trump would rescind the contracting nondiscrimination order as an example of them overreacting to “news” that proved, in the end, not to be true.

“LGBT liberals are desperate because the stranglehold they have on the LGBT community is weakening,” Murray said. “A large number of LGBT Americans are waking up to realize that in a post-marriage equality world, all LGBT liberals have to offer is their flapping gums. With his immigration order, President Trump showed he is protecting the LGBT community, and because of that LGBT liberals tried to scare the LGBT community with their fake news. Just like their efforts during the 2016 election, they fell short.”

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