The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump has no intention of overturning President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting LGBTQ federal contractors from discrimination, although there are concerns that he could move forward on other actions that would target the community.
The White House released a statement early Tuesday morning touting Trump’s support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals:
President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression. The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.
Obama’s 2014 executive order protected federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The GOP-led House of Representatives tried to overturn that policy in May.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he was unimpressed by Trump’s announcement.
“Claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar,” he tweeted.
Trump’s announcement came a day after widespread rumors that the president was considering a broader “religious freedom” executive order that would target the LGBTQ community. The Washington Post reported that there was even a draft of the order in circulation. LGBTQ groups quickly responded on Twitter that they were ready to fight Trump if he went forward with it.
There are still concerns that Trump could carry out such a move, similar to what has been passed in states. Such a policy would allow federal employees, for example, to cite their religion and refuse to serve LGBTQ people, or allow programs ― such as adoption agencies ― that receive federal funding to turn away individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Trump’s statement Tuesday did not rule out this sort of order.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion and national origin, but there are no federal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Democrats have legislation that would address that gap, but the GOP-controlled Congress has refused to take it up.
Trump has said he doesn’t support marriage equality but that he considers the matter settled because the Supreme Court made it the law of the land in 2015. Trump also expressed support during the campaign for North Carolina’s law that bars cities and localities from enacting anti-discrimination policies that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
And Trump’s number two, Vice President Mike Pence ― a longtime outspoken opponent of LGBTQ equality ― enacted a religious freedom law in his own state when he was governor of Indiana in 2015.
The law quickly sparked intense backlash against Pence and the state of Indiana. Opponents of the bill argued that it would open the door to widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Business owners who didn’t want to serve same-sex couples, for example, could have legal protections to discriminate.
Under heavy state and national pressure, Pence eventually signed a revised version of the law that explicitly barred a business from denying services to someone on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Actions speak louder than words,” American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project Director James Esseks said. “President Trump has surrounded himself with a vice president and cabinet members who have repeatedly sought to sanction discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion, and nothing in the White House’s statement makes clear that these efforts are behind us. ... If Donald Trump is serious about being an ally to the LGBT community, it starts with abandoning an agenda driven by fear and prejudice.”
This piece has been updated with comment from the ACLU.
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