Metro Weekly

Trump removed LGBTQ employment protections from North American trade deal

Republican lawmakers were outraged when the protections were revealed in an earlier draft

Donald Trump, Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The Trump administration has removed a commitment to protections for LGBTQ workers from a new North American trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

The USMCA trade deal, revealed last week, originally included draft language that required the three nations to support “policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity.”

However, that support for LGBTQ people crashed into a wall of outrage from Republican lawmakers, more than 40 of whom wrote to Donald Trump demanding that he strip the language from any final version of the deal.

The GOP politicians said the U.S. “has the right to decide when, whether and how to tackle issues of civil rights, protected classes and workplace rights,” and called a trade agreement “no place for the adoption of social policy.”

They continued: “It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”

They told Trump that unless the LGBTQ-supporting language was removed from the deal they would vote it down in Congress, which must approve the final version before it can be implemented.

And it seems their threats worked, as the final draft exempts the U.S. from any obligation to protect LGBTQ people.

Instead, the deal requires the nation to implement policies each “considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex,” Global News reports.

But it goes further in a footnote, which notes that American federal hiring policies “are sufficient to fulfil the obligations” and “thus requires no additional action.”

That flies in the face of the Trump administration’s actions, of course, which have included reversing protections for transgender federal workers, and rescinding an Obama-era order which required federal contractors to state their record on LGBTQ discrimination.

And it’s not the first time Trump has distanced himself from other Americas nations on LGBTQ rights — in February, he refused to join seven other nations in supporting same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

However, Trump’s most recent slap in the face to LGBTQ people also puts Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the spotlight, after he last month said he was committed to retaining the protections in any final draft of the trade deal.

Trudeau made the comments in direct response to the Republican lawmakers who spoke out against the pro-LGBTQ language.

“We got to a good agreement that I think represents Canadian values, Canadian approach, but also values that are broadly shared amongst citizens of our three countries,” Trudeau said. “In any trade deal, there are going to be people who would like this or like that or not want this or not want that.”

At the time, Trudeau refused to say how far he would go to protect LGBTQ rights, telling reporters he wouldn’t negotiate terms in public. Now that we have the final deal, it seems we have an answer.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at

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