Rumors are floating that President Trump will rescind President Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by companies that hold contracts with the federal government and perhaps put a “religious freedom” order in place.
At today’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to discuss the matter when Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson brought it up. “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue,” Spicer said. “There’s a lot of executive orders, a lot of things the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
A week ago, when asked if Obama’s order would stand, Spicer replied, “I just don’t know the answer.”
Bloomberg Government first reported on the rumors Friday, in a story that is available to clients only. The story noted that “a range of options are under consideration for an executive order that could target LGBTQ people with discrimination, including allowing contractors to discriminate in hiring, allowing taxpayer-funded workers to refuse to serve LGBTQ people or allowing Indiana-style discrimination where contractors could refuse service to LGBTQ people,” according to a Human Rights Campaign press release.
“Indiana-style discrimination” refers to the “religious freedom” law signed by Mike Pence, now vice president, in 2015 when he was governor of Indiana. The law would have given legal cover to businesses that turned away LGBT people or others who offended the business owner’s religious sensibilities. Amid public outcry and boycotts, it was amended so as not to allow such discrimination.
“The rumors of an anti-LGBTQ executive action by President Trump are deeply troubling,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for policy and political affairs, in the press release. “We already know that he is willing to target and marginalize at-risk communities for his perceived political gain. As the president and his team plan their next steps, we want to make one thing clear: we won’t give one inch when it comes to defending equality, whether it is a full-on frontal assault or an attack under the guise of religion. Mike Pence should know that better than anyone given his track record in Indiana. The Human Rights Campaign will stand with those who have already been targeted by this administration and are prepared to fight tooth and nail against every effort to discriminate.”
Trump has said he would sign anti-LGBT laws such as the proposed First Amendment Defense Act, a national version of state-level “license to discriminate” laws, which would apply to government workers as well as private businesses and nonprofits, protecting them from penalties if they cite religious objections in refusing service to LGBT people or others.
In what was seen by many as a cynical move, Trump cited antigay discrimination in his executive order blocking entry to the U.S. by people from seven majority-Muslim countries. “The United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred, (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own), or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender or sexual orientation,” his declaration stated.
That caught the attention of Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven, who issued this statement: “LGBT people refuse to be pawns in Mr. Trump's dangerous and inhumane game. We utterly reject his discrimination against Muslims in the guise of concern trolling for LGBT rights. If he really wants to help LGBT people, he can pledge to retain the Executive Orders that help protect us and to nominate a Supreme Court justice who supports equal treatment of all regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”