President Trump invoked the specter of violence against LGBT people as part of his justification for signing an executive order last Friday afternoon that bars people from several Muslim-dominated countries from entering the U.S. for at least 120 days.
He also cited the attack on the LGBT nightclub in Orlando last year to explain, in a memo issued Saturday, why he is developing a “Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
But LGBT legal activists were among the throngs of people denouncing the immigration restrictions.
“The new policy is blatantly unconstitutional and betrays our nation's commitment to religious freedom,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It endangers the lives of countless people, including LGBT people, in the targeted countries. Trump's mention of sexual orientation is a distraction and does not mitigate the unlawfulness or reprehensibility of the new policy in any way.”
Rachel Tiven, chief executive officer for Lambda Legal said, “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.”
Not all LGBT reaction was harsh. Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans national LGBT group, said, "There is nothing wrong with taking a thoughtful pause to reassess our country's immigration policy -- policy that both Republicans and Democrats agree is broken." He applauded President Trump "for becoming the first-ever Republican president to issue an affirmation in support of the gay community via executive order."
"Regardless of one's feelings on these policies, this represents an important milestone in LGBT and Republican history, said Angelo.
Reaction to the executive order was swift and dramatic from all quarters of the U.S. and world, with protesters gathering outside the White House and at international airports around the globe. By Sunday, Trump issued a statement saying, “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban…. This is not about religion –this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
President Trump compared his executive order to action taken by President Obama in 2011, suspending for several months the processing of applications from Iraqi nationals seeking to enter the U.S. The suspension was taken after the FBI found evidence that two Iraqi nationals who entered the U.S. as refugees had engaged in terrorist activities.
Specifically, Trump’s executive order states that the United States “should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred…or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” It says its purpose is to “protect Americans” by ensuring that “those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.”
The order “suspends” for 90 days the entrance of both “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from any of seven designated Muslim-dominated countries, saying their entrance “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
The order also suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days while various federal agencies amend the program “to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States….” It directs that the refugee program changes include “to the extent permitted by law” amendments “to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
This latter sentence is aimed at giving priority to applications filed by Christians from Muslim nations.
President Trump explained that provision to CBN.
In Syria, he said, “They were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians,” so he thought it unfair that the U.S. was allowing more Muslims than Christians into the U.S.
CNN fact-checked that point and cited Pew research indicating that, in 2016, 99 percent of Syrians entering the U.S. were Muslim, compared to less than one percent Christian. However, the Syrian population is 93 percent Muslim. And the numbers of Muslims and Christians allowed into the U.S. from all countries were roughly the same.
The order specifically identifies Syrians seeking refugee status as “detrimental” to U.S. interests and suspends their entry “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made [to the refugee program] to ensure [their admission] is consistent with the national interest.”
The order also calls on Homeland Security to expedite the implementation of a “biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States.”
The order applies to people arriving to the U.S. from seven specific nations: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. Numerous media organizations have reported that, while many of Trump’s business interests are located in Muslim-dominated countries, none are located in any of the seven targeted nations. National Public Radio also noted that “No Muslim extremist from any of these places has carried out a fatal attack in the U.S. in more than two decades.”
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to stop the immigration ban and a federal judge in New York temporarily blocked the order’s call for deportation of immigrants arriving at U.S. airports with valid visas, green cards, or refugee status. Federal judges in other states took other actions that stopped parts of the order. But the Department of Homeland Security vowed to forge ahead with enforcement, saying it “retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety.”
In a January 28 memo concerning ISIS, President Trump directed the Secretary of Defense to present to him within 30 days a “preliminary draft” of a “comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS.”
“ISIS is responsible for the violent murder of American citizens in the Middle East, including the beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Abdul-Rahman Kassig, as well as the death of Kayla Mueller,” states the memo. “In addition, ISIS has inspired attacks in the United States, including the December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, and the June 2016 attack in Orlando, Florida.”
During his campaign for the presidency last year, Trump repeatedly cited the attack on the Orlando nightclub Pulse, frequently in the context of his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. The gunman who murdered 49 people and injured 102 others at the nightclub in June of last year was an American-born U.S. citizen whose parents had immigrated from Afghanistan. The gunman called 911 during the attack and declared his allegiance with the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), but investigators did not find any evidence beyond his statement that the shooter was “directed externally” by any terrorist organization.