The White House has issued an executive order titled, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” which makes political speeches and actions from churches and other institutions much easier.
The first draft of the order was leaked February 1 and revealed discriminatory language that would allow religious or moral objection to the service of LGBT people, give leeway to governmental employees to refuse marriage registrations to same-sex couples, as well as deny the recognition of an individual’s gender identity on the basis that “biological sex is immutable at birth,” according to a comment from LGBT rights group OutRight.
The order, released Thursday, did away with much of the anti-LGBT content. However, the order allows businesses to deny their workers birth control and allots more political freedom to churches and religious institutions.
“The changes in this executive order since the previous draft leaked are a strong indication that the House realizes that LGBTQ discrimination is not palatable to the vast majority of Americans,” Pride at Work executive director Jerame Davis said in a statement. “While the worst anti-LGBTQ provisions were removed, some pretty awful stuff remains that will impact our community.”
Davis continued, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental bedrock of our nation’s values. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects our right to believe and worship freely. This freedom is foundational, but it is not above all others. We will not stand by while this administration thumbs their nose at the Constitution and takes away our rights to satisfy a narrow view of religion.”
Davis continued to say that this order has become a direct attack on women, and that reproductive health care decisions should not fall under the jurisdiction of the White House or any other employer.
“Trump’s plan to allow businesses to deny coverage of contraceptive care under the guise of so-called religious liberty is a slippery slope,” Davis said. “We are not a theocracy, but it appears some in this Administrations are eager to continue the slow creep toward that goal.”
After the initial draft received outcry from individuals as well as rights groups it was tabled. According to OutRight, Vice President Mike Pence continued to lobby for the adoption of the revised order that was released Thursday.
The executive order overrides President Obama’s 2014 executive order protecting federal employees against LGBT-based discrimination.
“Governments around the world try to excuse persecution of minorities — including LGBTIQ people — with religious beliefs,” Executive Director of OutRight Jessica Stern said about the bill before it was released. “It is no more right in the United States than anywhere else. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of how it is justified.”
Pride at Work, who fosters support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBT community in order to achieve social and economic justice has made it their goal to fight this discriminatory order “with every tool at [their] disposal.”
“Trump’s plan to give religious institutions a pass to enter the political fray is fraught with danger,” Davis said. “Churches should not be empowered to run campaigns against LGBTQ people, women’s healthcare, and more without putting their tax exempt status in jeopardy. That’s a violation of the founding principle of separation of church and state.”