Trump signed the religious liberty executive order on Thursday, which pledged to “vigorously promote religious liberty.” Back in March, an early version of the order was allegedly leaked that contained clauses that would enable discrimination against the LGBT community and women. While the order signed on Thursday does not include any of these clauses, LGBT activists fear it will open the door to future discrimination of the community.
While the order, which was signed during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, does not appear to have targeted gay Americans, the rights of women have been affected. Under the order, regulatory relief will be provided to organizations that object to the provision in Obamacare that mandates employers provide certain health services, if they are on religious grounds. This included women’s contraceptive benefits. In light of these troubling developments, LGBT organizations have vowed to closely monitor any attempts to undermine their rights.
“The LGBT Equality Caucus will remain vigilant for any attempt to undermine the hard-fought gains our community has made in the past decade,” Executive Director Roddy Flynn told CNN Thursday. “We plan on closely monitoring the implementation and interpretation of the executive order.”
“This administration has attacked the rights of transgender students and programs assisting LGBT elders,” he added. “We cannot trust that this order will be narrowly utilized to not directly harm our community. We will be watching.”
Meanwhile, other leaders have claimed that the order will enable Attorney General Jeff Sessions – a member of Congress with heinous views of the LGBT community – to use the Justice Department to discriminate against LGBT Americans.
“Donald Trump just let the fox into the henhouse,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. “Through this executive order, Trump has directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a man who has denied LGBTQ people equality under the law — to seek a license to discriminate across all areas of the government.”
“We are watching and we will challenge any effort by Jeff Sessions or other agencies of Trump’s administration to license discrimination,” she added.
Since Trump’s inauguration, there has been a devastating shift in policy on LGBT issues. The signing of the religious liberty executive order is just the latest in a long line of enactments that are revoking the rights of both LGBT communities and women.
We saw the most extreme change back in February, when the decision was made to reverse Obama-era civil rights protections for transgender children. In the weeks following, it was announced that the Trump administration would not include an option to declare sexual orientation and gender identity on the 2020 US Census. This would make it increasingly difficult to protect the rights of the communities in the sectors such as “employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally-funded programs and jury service.” Not to mention the number of anti-LGBT Republicans that have been appointed key posts in the Cabinet.
In the coming weeks, LGBT and women’s rights groups will be closely monitoring the Trump Administration. In the past, Trump has voiced support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a bill that would permit businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction. In combination with the recent signing of the religious liberty executive order, it could easily be claimed that Trump is using religious freedoms as a tool to revoke the rights of women and LGBT communities, causing conflict between the two entities.
“Today’s Executive Order stopped short of rampant discrimination but don’t be fooled this begins a slippery slope of a #LicenseToDiscriminate,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBT media organization, tweeted Thursday.
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