Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
The news today (Tuesday, Jan. 31) that President Donald Trump said he would not rescind an existing executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees should have left LGBT activists feeling relieved. But it didn’t.
Most reacted with a mixture of concern that his reassuring “words” aren’t matching up with his troubling “actions” of nominating people who are hostile to LGBT to key federal positions in health care, civil rights, and education. Most fear Trump will be inclined to act on his campaign promise that religious liberty will be “cherished, protected, defended, like you have never seen before.”
In a four-sentence statement released Tuesday morning, the White House said:
“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.”
“That is a fine statement, but actions are far more important,” said Rachel Tiven, chief executive officer for Lambda Legal. “President Trump is assembling a cabinet of people who have undermined the rights of LGBT people and everyone with HIV. Last week, he invoked pretend concern for LGBT people as a justification for his rejection of refugee. … Actions speak louder than words.”
Tivlen was referring to statements Trump made about violence against LGBT people as part of his justification for signing an executive order Friday afternoon, Jan, 27, that at least temporarily bars people from several Muslim-dominated countries from entering the U.S. He also cited the mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub Pulse last June by a gunman claiming he was inspired by ISIS to explain why he was having the Defense Department create a plan for defeating ISIS.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin also issued a statement in response to the White House press release on the non-discrimination order.
“Claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar,” Griffin said. “LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason. Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House.”
And Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, noted that the White House statement is “not a step forward.”
“Today’s statement says only that Trump does not intend to take the extreme step of abolishing existing protections,” said Minter. “That is not a step forward. We remain extremely concerned that he intends to issue an order creating new religious exemptions that will harm LGBT people and others.”
Tuesday’s statement from the White House caught some people by surprise. Rumors were circulating just before the White House statement was released, claiming that President Trump was getting ready to sign an executive order rescinding the LGBT protections. Publicity for the statement that did emerge was largely lost among mainstream reporting of the increasingly dramatic backlash against Trump’s executive order restricting immigration by people from certain majority-Muslim nations and reporting of Trump’s scheduled announcement tonight of his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kendall suggested this morning’s statement could be an effort to mitigate any LGBT fallout over that Supreme Court nominee, what Minter said is “the most important issue for our community.”
“We need everyone who cares about LGBT people to insist that the Senate must reject any nominee who is not fully committed to enforcing [the] Obergefell [decision which struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples] and other decisions affirming the equality and freedom of LGBT people.”
HRC’s Griffin also noted that Trump has not committed to “opposing any executive actions that allow government employees, taxpayer-funded organizations or even companies to discriminate.”
Currently, regulations at several federal agencies, including Health and Human Services and the departments of Justice and Education, provide protections for LGBT people. The new incoming leadership at these agencies could issue new regulations that could take those protections away.
Those nominations — such as Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Betsy DeVos confirmed today as Secretary of Education, and Rep. Tom Price at HHS — had many in the LGBT community bracing for the Trump administration to reverse many of the gains of the Obama administration.
But Log Cabin national President Gregory Angelo said Jan. 18 that the Trump transition team’s Office of National Engagement invited Log Cabin to draft and submit the white paper on the LGBT non-discrimination executive order. Angelo said he considered that a “strong signal” that Trump’s promise to be a “real friend” to the LGBT community was “genuine.”
Log Cabin urged “preserving the LGBT non-discrimination executive order. …” LCR said the paper it submitted presented the “common-sense conservative case for LGBT non-discrimination in federal contractors to the Trump transition team.” It also noted that the last Republican president, George W. Bush, left intact the original executive order prohibiting discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation.
After the White House issued President Trump’s statement this morning, Angelo said, “President Trump is delivering” on his campaign commitment to be a “real friend” of the LGBT community.
“Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have directly advocated for this important preservation of LGBT equality in the federal workforce, and heartened to see that the recommendations prescribed in our white paper on this subject have been reflected in the decision to maintain the LGBT non-discrimination executive order.”
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