Trump keeps EO protecting LGBTQ employees, contractors, but what comes next?
In journalism circles there are two thoughts about Trump’s so far – what he’s done and what he could do. It’s easy to point to what he’s done. Executive orders on immigration, abortion funding over seas, regulation additions and others are ready for scrutiny by the public.
And in the last 24 hours, his administration released a statement saying an Obama order protecting LGBTQ employees would stay in place along side an order requiring federal contractors to have similar protective policies.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement said according to the New York Times. “The president is proud to have been the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
This is sure to piss off conservatives who helped enact one of the most anti-LGBTQ platform in GOP history – one Trump seems to be following for the most part.
But then there’s what he hasn’t done, or what he’s said or hinted or promised to do. Among those sound bytes is one which flies in the face of his recent statement.
From a September press release sent out during his bid for office:
Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy… The Little Sisters of the Poor, or any religious order for that matter, will always have their religious liberty protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.
Those in the LGBTQ community are all too familiar with this coded language which aims to elevate the right of religious organizations and individuals over the rights of sexual minorities. In particularly, the line about stopping “bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs” seems to point to legal battles brought by states against private businesses who have refused services to LGBTQs, claiming their faith says no.
Take a look at the famed Jack Phillips owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Because CO has a law specifically denying discrimination against LGBTQs (Virginia does not, heads up), when Phillips told a gay couple he wouldn’t bake a cake for their wedding cause of his faith, he got slapped with a law suit.
“Cake decorating is his medium for creating art and they are compelling him to engage in artistic expression that violates his beliefs,” said Phillips lawyers according to the New York Times. But that didn’t fly with a three judge panel who sided unanimously against him.
Similar cases exist in states like Oregon and Washington where services were denied… all the while, “religious freedom” advocates have called the state’s legal actions a case of bullying by the government.
“That ruling was about bullying – bullying Christians,” wrote columnist Todd Starnes for Fox News about the CO. Starnes called part of Phillips punishment, sensitivity training, “reverse conversion therapy (or straight man’s rehab) so that the state can mandate diversity through conformity.”
This is the kind of “Christian bullying” LGBTQ advocates fear Trump will try to address. And he’s got his first chance in a new bill submitted by U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID). Labrador is expected to re-introduce his the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) that President Donald Trump has promised to sign.
Labrador’s legislation “Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
“Freedom of religion is not only the right to worship in private but is also the right to publicly exercise our religion without fear of government interference,” Labrador said in a press release sent out last Summer. “Critics of the First Amendment Defense Act intend to force religious views out of the public square. They are even willing to mislead the American people about what this bill does to accomplish their agenda.”
Meanwhile, the folks at the Human Rights Campaign have come down hard on the bill, pointing out the legislation aims to fix a “problem that just does not exist.”
“The U.S. Constitution provides strong protections for individuals and organizations to practice their religion and to freely speak about beliefs,” said HRC’s legislative team. ”Nothing in federal law, including the right to receive exempt tax status, a federal grant or contract, or other federal benefit, can be denied on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief. The federal government also has an equally strong obligation and interest in eradicating harmful discrimination.”
First introduced back in 2015, the bill has been a ghastly figure hovering over LGBTQ rights held at bay by the Obama Administration and reasonable-thinking legislators on both sides of the isle. When first announced, the bill had 124 co-sponsors in the House, and a Senate version had 34. This isn’t enough for passage, but the sweep of Congress and the Executive in 2016 is sure to embolden those who might model themselves after Trump and leave reason back in their District.
And Trump has promised to sign FADA if it makes it to his desk: “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths,” he said on the campaign trail.
Similar laws that have worked their way through Virginia’s GA were shot down for similar reasons HRC pointed out. Last year’s “religious freedom” bill was vetoed by Gov. McAuliffe because “any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” wrote McAuliffe in a statement released along with the veto last March.
But we wont have McAuliffe to save us from Trump. We might have the Supreme Court, because anyone with a least a base knowledge of freedom of religion, including members of faith groups who have filed lawsuits over similar laws in Mississippi, knows these laws are poorly-coded discrimination wrapped in a vail of faith.
So what can we do about it? You can call you representative (Member finder here), if you live in a GOP run district ideally, and let them know your thoughts. You can go to marches and protests. You can make your voice heard.
Just know FADA is a modern tool to push us back in the closet, and between my boyfriend and I, we’ve got WAY too many shoes to be heading back in there.
Trump Administration has ‘Corrected’ 2020 Census form by removing proposed inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity
“The Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey report released today inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix”March 31, 2017
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