LGBT groups say draft of Trump 'religious freedom' order would allow discrimination

Fri. February 3, 2017 10:06 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

LGBT groups are alarmed by a leaked copy of a draft executive order they say would allow discrimination.

Titled "Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom," the four-page draft order was first reported by The Nation.

The order broadly defines a religious organization to include "any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations." Its protections of "religious freedom" are also sweeping: "when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments."

The draft order seeks to create exemptions in the law for a person or organization who "believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life."

Leak of the order comes less than 48 hours after the Trump administration announced it would keep in place a 2014 executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

In a statement announcing the decision, the White House said that Trump was "determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community" and that the president was "respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights."

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, dubbed the order Trump's "license to discriminate."

"The leaked draft of Donald Trump's License to Discriminate order is sweeping and dangerous. It reads like a wishlist from some of the most radical anti-equality activists," Griffin said. "If true, it seems this White House is poised to wildly expand anti-LGBTQ discrimination across all facets of the government – even if he does maintain the Obama EO. If Donald Trump goes through with even a fraction of this order, he'll reveal himself as a true enemy to LGBTQ people. We've already seen that the Trump administration is willing to go after women, immigrants, people of color, and most frighteningly, people who disagree with him."

Ira Lupu, a professor emeritus at the George Washington University Law School, told The Nation that the draft order "might invite federal employees to refuse on religious grounds to process applications or respond to questions from those whose benefits depend on same sex marriages," which could "lead to a situation where marriage equality was being de facto undermined by federal employees, especially in religiously conservative communities."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine