May 2, 2017 at 7:45 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
LGBT groups prepare for fight over Trump ‘religious freedom’ EO

Donald Trump is reportedly planning a “religious freedom” executive order. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In the wake of a media report that President Trump is preparing to sign a “religious freedom” executive order on Thursday, LGBT groups are making plans to fight over the measure on the assumption it will enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

The Human Rights Campaign is planning a rally and news conference at noon Wednesday at Lafayette Square outside of the White House to raise awareness for a directive that the organization says would puts millions of LGBT people at risk of discrimination.

“Donald Trump’s rumored unconstitutional action is nothing more than a license-to-discriminate order that puts millions of LGBTQ people at risk,” Griffin said. “There is no religious freedom crisis in America today, but there is a crisis of hate and discrimination. At a time when two-thirds of all LGBTQ people report having experienced discrimination, Donald Trump is making the problem worse by giving legal cover to perpetrators. By even considering this discriminatory order he has broken his promise to be a president for all Americans.”

According to Politico, President Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for the signing of an executive order timed with celebration of the National Day of Prayer, which the administration was planning to celebrate with faith leaders.

The report cites two senior administration officials confirming Trump would sign the order on Thursday, although “one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language.”

A draft “religious freedom” executive order has circulated among federal advocacy groups and would enable discrimination on the basis of religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity. The proposed measure would gut former President Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination against federal contractors, even the White House issued a statement indicating Trump had planned to keep the order intact.

Politico reported the draft executive order Trump plans to sign is being tightly held, but quoted an influential conservative who saw the text said it “hasn’t been dialed back much – if at all – since the February leak” and has language that is “very, very strong.”

Asked about any plans to sign a “religious freedom” order, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokesperson, told the Washington Blade, “Nothing to announce at this time.”

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement on Tuesday threatening the administration with a lawsuit after news broke about Trump’s plan to sign the executive order.

“The ACLU fights every day to defend religious freedom, but religious freedom does not mean the right to discriminate against or harm others,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If President Trump signs an executive order that attempts to provide a license to discriminate against women or LGBT people, we will see him in court.”

Peter Montgomery, senior fellow for the People For the American Way, said in a statement the executive order would be “very bad news for real religious liberty” if the directive is along the lines of the anti-LGBT draft order.

“The Religious Right has been working for years to stretch and distort the concept of religious liberty into a tool they can use to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t think like them, especially LGBTQ people,” Montgomery said. “Religious liberty should be a shield that protects every American’s religious freedom; but the far Right is trying to transform it into a sword to attack and harm others. It’s deeply disappointing, although not particularly surprising, that Donald Trump is once again willing to give extreme anti-gay activists exactly what they want.”

On the same day news broke that Trump would sign the order, Faith in Public Life published a full-page letter in Politico signed by more than 1,300 faith leaders urging Trump to reject the measure.

“As clergy and faith leaders who serve diverse communities across the United States, we write to you to express our deep concern over the draft religious freedom executive order that some have urged you to sign,” the letter says. “Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swaths of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care. We urge you to turn away from all proposals that would abuse religious freedom, including any executive orders on this issue that are currently under consideration.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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