February 14, 2017

Trump Chose Gay Rights Over State Sanctioned Bigotry

Donald Trump in the Oval Office holds up the signed executive order for everyone to see.

When Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing, he promised to protect the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. I was watching the hearing and heard him say that with my own ears and I laughed. While I was surprised, I knew better than to give him credit for evolving and changing his mind on LGBT issues.

Just a few hours after he was sworn in as Donald Trump’s new Attorney General, he directed staff attorneys at the Department of Justice to reevaluate defending the Obama-era guidance to protect transgender students’ rights. His actions are outrageous. Rolling back civil rights protections for trans kids is inhumane and unjust.

Is this an anomaly in the Trump administration, or will they begin a full scale assault on the rights of LGBT Americans? Is Jeff Sessions representing his personal interests or the Trump Administration’s transphobic policy agenda? Does anyone have that answer?

Just a few days before Sessions assumed his new post, there were media reports about a leaked draft of an executive order related to ‘religious freedom’ (anti-gay discrimination) that was widely circulated among various stakeholders (Trump’s lawyers and right-wing religious extremists). The draft title of the order was Executive Order Establishing a Government Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom. I guess we can hold our breath and wait for the ‘Executive Order Establishing a Government Wide Initiative To Respect the Civil RIghts of Lesbian, Gay, BIsexual and Transgender Americans.’

The Nation’s  Sarah Posner explained the sweeping nature and devastating impact that this executive action would have on women, religious minorities, gay men and women, same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and anyone who identifies as transgender.
The executive order would provide sweeping religious exemptions so that anybody—a business owner, a government employee, an individual, somebody you work with—could claim a religious objection to you, to your sexual orientation, to your private sexual activity even, and refuse you service or refuse to rent an apartment to you or refuse to comply with a federal law that requires the employer to provide health insurance for a particular thing, like perhaps contraception. So, that is the main part of this draft executive order.
The intent of this executive action is to codify and license anti-LGBT discrimination, in addition to sanctioning discrimination based on sex and gender. Candidate Trump repeatedly said he’d be the best candidate for women and gay people, and the proposed executive order would be disastrous and cause irreparable harm to women and the LGBT community.

While he was governor of Indiana, Mike Pence signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to provide legal cover to bigots who planned  on discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender hoosiers in their local communities. Pence was forced to backtrack and weaken the law after the public outcry, and in the process Pence cost his state $1.5 billion dollars in lost business.

Vice President Mike Pence’s fingerprints are all over the draft of this proposed executive order to sanction discrimination, and yet there’s no evidence to suggest that Trump has any intention of signing it. Either way - these laws are bad for business.

Politico’s  Annie Karni wrote that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner lobbied the president to reject the executive order and reaffirm his commitment to LGBT civil rights, by leaving Barack Obama’s executive order banning LGBT employment discrimination in federal contracts, in place.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped lead the charge to scuttle a draft executive order that would have overturned Obama-era enforcements of LGBT rights in the workplace, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO.

A draft executive order on LGBT rights that outlines how to roll back former President Barack Obama’s protections and expand legal exemptions based on religious beliefs has been circulating among journalists and worried progressive groups this week.

But two sources close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who have a record of supporting gay rights, said the couple favored putting out a clear statement from the president, promising to uphold the 2014 Obama executive order and stopping the momentum for the turnaround in its tracks.

On Tuesday night, the White House released a statement saying that “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 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,” the statement continued.
How can the new administration appease the right-wing extremists in the Republican party? Their demand for an executive order to discriminate against pro-choice women and LGBT people in the name of ‘religious freedom’ is antithetical to Trump’s assertions that he will be ‘the best’ on women’s health issues and LGBT rights. Trump’s largest bloc of political support in the general election was from white evangelical voters. Can he afford to alienate them early in his first term?

The head of Iowa’s anti-gay Family Leader organization asserts that LGBT workplace protections violate their religious liberty, and the Trump supporter wants to know why the president isn’t bowing to their demands.
“Our base would want to know who is responsible for what we believe is an issue of religious liberty — that would be of concern to us,” said Bob Vander Plaats, the chief executive of The Family Leader, a socially conservative organization.

“We have been consistent,” Mr. Vander Plaats added. “We’ve cheered President Trump a lot. But on this one, our base is wondering why Obama’s executive order would be allowed to stand?”
Most of these right-wing religious groups peddle fiction and lies to support their extreme political agenda, and it seems that Donald Trump has ripped a page from their tired playbook. Trump would love to keep both constituencies happy and that’s an impossible task. Whose side will Trump take? I have no idea what he'll do. Does anyone know?

I do know that a religious freedom executive order is ridiculous and unnecessary. Any official act that licenses bigotry creates immeasurable damage, harm, anxiety and stress within our community. These negative consequences are caused by a conscious political or religious initiative to injure and diminish LGBT people. If Trump comes for us we’re going to fight like hell to ensure that the few rights we have are preserved.

Right-wingers might have Trump on their side, and we have a bigger weapon. The majority of Americans support LGBT rights and the people are on our side. I’ll take their support over Trump’s any day of the week.

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