QUEER VOICES
05/03/2017 04:41 pm ET

Queer Community Ready To Wage War On Trump's Rumored 'Religious Freedom' Order

The planned legislation is "a license to discriminate," they say.
President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order that would permit business owners to cite the religi
MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images
President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order that would permit business owners to cite the religious faith in turning away customers. 

In what could be a troubling strike against the LGBTQ community, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order on religious liberty as early as Thursday. If signed, the controversial measure would permit groups and business owners to cite their religious faith as a reason to refuse services and goods to people.

Two senior administration officials confirmed Thursday’s plan to Politico, though one stressed that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. If Trump’s support of such legislation is true, however, it’s certain to spark the ire of LGBTQ advocacy groups, and for good reason.

In the last few years, bakeries, florist shops and other wedding-related vendors have made headlines after their owners refused to serve same-sex couples who were planning to tie the knot. Same-sex marriage, those business owners claimed, simply went against their religious beliefs

A Colorado judge ruled that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had violated the state's anti-discriminat
Lindsay Pierce via Getty Images
A Colorado judge ruled that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination laws after he cited his religious beliefs in refusing to prepare a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. 

In March 2015, Vice President Mike Pence ― who was then governor of Indiana ― signed a statewide Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. At the time, Pence argued that the law did not allow discrimination against anyone. LGBTQ rights advocates felt differently, and Apple, Marriott and other corporations condemned the law. (Pence signed a revised version explicitly barring Indiana businesses from denying services to someone on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity days later.) 

In February, a document that was said to be a draft of Trump’s original religious freedom executive order was leaked to HuffPost, The Nation and other media outlets. That version, titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” vowed to protect the tax-exempt status of any religious organization or privately held company that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female.”

The White House quickly distanced itself from the leaked document, while the order itself was reportedly abandoned at the suggestion of Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Still, there were reports that Pence and a small team of conservative allies began revising the order shortly thereafter. The aim of the revised draft, one official told Politico, hasn’t changed much since the version leaked in February. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.

Whether or not the executive order reaches Trump’s desk on Thursday remains to be seen. But a number of high-profile queer advocacy groups, including GLAAD, GLSEN and the National LGBTQ Task Force, are already condemning the move. 

“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,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis 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.”

ThinkProgress’s Zack Ford felt similarly, and tweeted Wednesday: 

See how other LGBTQ groups reacted to the reports below. 

 

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): We will see him in court.
    “The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate a
    Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
    “The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others. If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.” -- ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling
  • GLSEN: It is un-American to make anyone’s basic rights subject to the personal discretion of others.
    “This executive order does not increase freedom of religion – already protected by our Constitution – it cr
    ERIC THAYER / Reuters
    “This executive order does not increase freedom of religion – already protected by our Constitution – it creates a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, Muslims, people of color, and other marginalized groups. For at-risk youth, this EO could undermine crucial safeguards against discrimination that create opportunities for them to survive and succeed. It is un-American to make anyone’s basic rights subject to the personal discretion of others. It also goes against the rule of law and core principle of equal protection and would surely be challenged in the courts. Just 100 days ago, Donald Trump said he would not discriminate against LGBTQ people. Today, he’s reportedly on the verge of handing all of our fellow Americans a personal license to ignore our rights." -- GLSEN Executive Director, Dr. Eliza Byard
  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC): By even considering this discriminatory order he has broken his promise.
    “Donald Trump’s rumored unconstitutional action is nothing more than a license-to-discriminate order that puts mi
    ERIC THAYER / Reuters
    “Donald Trump’s rumored unconstitutional action is nothing more than a license-to-discriminate order that puts millions of LGBTQ people at risk. There is no religious freedom crisis in America today, but there is a crisis of hate and discrimination. At a time when two-thirds of all LGBTQ people report having experienced discrimination, Donald Trump is making the problem worse by giving legal cover to perpetrators. By even considering this discriminatory order he has broken his promise to be a president for all Americans.” -- Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin
  • National LGBTQ Task Force: It trashes the separation of church and state and aims to combine them.
    “This executive order will be a charter for widespread and divisive discrimination, potentially against LGBTQ people, w
    Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
    “This executive order will be a charter for widespread and divisive discrimination, potentially against LGBTQ people, women, Muslim communities, and other marginalized communities. It is designed to destroy lives and roll-back fundamental rights. It trashes the separation of church and state and aims to combine them. It will have an immediate and chilling impact on every aspect of people’s lives, disproportionately impacting those who are low-income or otherwise marginalized. What will be shocking to millions of people of all faiths and secular people alike is that Trump radically twists freedom of, and freedom from, religion to justify this amoral action. In fact, the research shows that 61 percent of people of faith in America actually support LGBTQ inclusion and 59 percent of those are against religious exemptions." -- National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Rea Carey
  • Center For American Progress: CAP sees this for what it is: a license to discriminate.
    "If media reports are accurate, President Trump is—once again—on the verge of signing an executive order to sanct
    Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
    "If media reports are accurate, President Trump is—once again—on the verge of signing an executive order to sanction sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people, women, and their families in blatant violation of Trump’s promise to protect our LGBT citizens. If the executive order is anything like the draft leaked in February, it would give for-profit corporations free rein to discriminate, leading to LGBT people and women being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or even denied medical care simply because of who they are. The Trump administration is attempting to disguise this attack in the language of religious liberty, but CAP sees this for what it is: a license to discriminate." -- Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress Winnie Stachelberg
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