White House continues LGBTQ employee protections, but activists are wary

A woman holds a rainbow flag during the NYC Pride Parade in New York. AP Photo, Seth Wenig, File.

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

Former President Barack Obama took a giant step forward to protect LGBTQ federal employees and the LGBTQ employees of federal contractors against discrimination in 2014 through an executive order. Activists had feared that President Donald Trump would repeal the Obama order, but yesterday, a White House statement said that would not be happening.

The Associated Pressreported, “President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he won't roll back federal workplace protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people, giving a rare nod of approval to President Barack Obama's work on the issue.

“In a statement released early morning, the White House said Obama's 2014 executive order prohibiting LGBTQ workplace discrimination would remain intact ‘at the direction" of Trump.’

“’President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,’ according to the White House statement. ‘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.’"

However, LGBTQ and other civil rights activists still fear anti-LGBTQ discrimination from the new administration. The Human Rights Campaign, in its daily email update, said, “Yesterday, HRC and other civil rights leaders held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to address persisting rumors of a Trump executive order that could extend a broad license to discriminate, as well as recent Trump actions that directly impact LGBTQ women, Muslims, immigrants and other communities he has already specifically targeted. 

“As HRC President Chad Griffin said, ‘Put simply, claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar. 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.’”

The Washington Post reported that, “A draft of a potential executive order that began circulating in Washington over the weekend called for overturning then President Obama’s directive barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal workforce and by federal contractors.

“The draft order included multiple provisions, such as possible exemptions that would allow adoption agencies and groups receiving federal funds to deny services to LGBT Americans based on their beliefs. The White House statement did not address those possible changes.

”Speaking to reporters earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on whether an executive order affecting gay and transgender people was under consideration.

“’I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue,’ Spicer said. ‘There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.’”

CNBC reported that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council is hopeful that there will be “religious liberty” protections by executive order. CNBC said, “A prominent conservative Christian leader on Tuesday expressed confidence that President Donald Trump will still take executive action to uphold ‘religious liberty’ despite a White House statement that the president will uphold existing protections against ‘anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination’ by federal contractors.

"’I think this is going to be addressed,’ said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Proponents of ‘religious liberty’ argue that religiously oriented workplaces should be allowed to consider a person's sexual orientation in doing business.”

The White House statement on maintaining the Obama executive order appears to dismiss that possibility, but LGBTQ activists remain wary.

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Copyright 2017 The Gayly – February 1, 2017 @ 11:25 a.m.