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President Donald Trump plans to sign a “religious liberty” executive order on Thursday, May 4, that could potentially be used to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Speaking with two senior administration officials, Politico reports that Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House for a ceremonial signing. It will coincide with the White House’s previously planned celebration of the National Day of Prayer, when religious leaders have historically visited the White House and advocated for a host of socially conservative domestic policies.
The administration officials confirmed the plan, although they noted it hasn’t been finalized and is currently being revised to tighten up language in order to survive a potential legal challenge.
Whether Trump will follow through with the order remains unknown, as this would not be the first time that the president reversed course on an issue related to LGBTQ rights. Earlier this year, reports surfaced that Trump was planning to issue a similar “religious liberty” executive order, the text of which was leaked to and published in The Nation.
Under the language in that order, people, businesses and organizations with sincerely held religious beliefs opposing homosexuality would be permitted to deny goods or services to LGBTQ people without fear of penalties or other repercussions imposed by the federal government.
Those protections would extend to social conservatives and religiously-affiliated organizations in the course of providing health care or social services, hiring or firing people, and would be so broad in scope as to allow churches to endorse candidates for political office.
According to the Trump advisers, the language of the new executive order has not substantially changed from the draft that was leaked in February.
LGBTQ advocates and allies panned the latest reports of the executive order, not wishing to rely on the president’s goodwill in the hope that he will reverse course once again.
“If this order is substantially similar to the leaked draft order we saw earlier this year, that’s very bad news for real religious liberty,” Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow for People for the American Way, said in a statement. “The Religious Right has been working for years to stretch and distort the concept of religious liberty into a tool they can use to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t think like them, especially LGBTQ people.
“Religious liberty should be a shield that protects every American’s religious freedom; but the far Right is trying to transform it into a sword to attack and harm others. It’s deeply disappointing, although not particularly surprising, that Donald Trump is once again willing to give extreme anti-gay activists exactly what they want.”
“If this possible executive order is similar to February’s draft, it would do nothing except give a national license to discriminate, and endanger LGBTQ people and their families,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “President Trump is trying to create an America where my children could be turned away if a pediatrician doesn’t accept my wife and I. Nothing could be more un-American.”
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