LGBT groups, religious conservatives wary of Trump’s next move
Mixed signals from the White House on gay rights and religious exemptions have put two constituencies on edge: LGBT advocates already wary of President Donald Trump and social conservatives determined to hold him to his campaign promises.
Recent developments have left both groups anxious and uncertain.
Last week, Trump pledged to maintain President Barack Obama’s job protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal employees, and the White House touted him as a protector of the broader LGBT community.
Soon after, Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, which cheered conservatives because of the nominee’s past support for broad religious exemptions. Then a draft executive order on religious exemptions was leaked; among other things, it would have boosted protections for those with faith objections to gay marriage while undercutting LGBT gains made under Obama.
The order would have gone a long way to satisfying Trump’s campaign promise to religious conservatives that “I will defend your religious liberties.” But as of Wednesday the draft order hadn’t been signed, reportedly because of objections from Trump’s daughter Ivanka and others in his inner circle.
Had the executive order been signed, LGBT-rights leaders were poised to respond with a wave of protests and lawsuits depicting the order as authorizing taxpayer-funded discrimination. Even though Trump has backed off for now, they remain wary.
“It’s really not a question of if this administration will attack LGBT people — it’s a question of when and how,” said Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal.
Meanwhile, conservative religious leaders have been carefully turning up pressure on the president, who won 81 per cent of the white evangelical vote, along with a majority of Roman Catholics.
The Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and others have urged Trump to take action.
Greg Baylor, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that specializes in religious liberty cases, said he hoped Trump would “make a global statement about how the new federal government is going to respect religious liberty.” Baylor said the draft executive order that remains in limbo would have been “a constructive step” toward that goal.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched an online lobby campaign urging Catholics to make a similar point in emails to the White House. “We pray that the new administration follows through on its promises regarding conscience rights and allows the Catholic community and other people of faith the freedom to serve others in accordance with our beliefs,” said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who leads the bishops’ efforts to secure conscience rights.
Mixed signals from the White House have both some in the LBTG community and religious conservatives what U.S. President Donald Trump’s move will be on gay rights and religious exemptions.