May 3, 2017 at 7:12 pm PST | by Troy Masters
LA protests against Trump’s Religious Freedoms Executive Order cancelled

In February, dozens of people marched along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood to protest Trump’s Religious Freedom Executive Order. (Photo by Troy Masters)

“Organizers are calling off tonight’s rally — today’s executive order was not the broadside on LGBT rights we feared. However, it is a frontal attack on women’s reproductive rights and opens the door to potential anti-LGBT discrimination in the future,” according to Equality California.  The group instead called for the community to stand up for other intersecting concerns, like women’s rights and health advocacy.

“Please participate in the many smaller, targeted events that are being planned today by Planned Parenthood Action, advocates of the separation of church and state and others. And although today’s order was not the expected attack, that broader anti-LGBT order could still come at any time. Please keep monitoring our page and those of other LGBT organizations for future actions. We are not letting down our guard. Stand with us,” Equality California wrote on Facebook.

In Los Angeles, Equality California and other civil rights and activist groups are had been set to protest in anticipation Donald Trump’s long awaited Religious Freedoms executive order.  

While the executive order Trump signed did not include provisions that would let federal contractors discriminate against LGBT people, as an earlier draft of the religious liberty order did, some say it dismantles provisions of the Johnson Amendment that prevent Churches and other non-profits from participating in politics.  It’s real impact, however, is to underscore the Hobby Lobby decision, a Supreme Court ruling that shields employers from certain requirements they object to .  It also allows churches to participate in political campaigns and make endorsements.

Equality California had written on Facebook that “contrary to the president’s statements that he’s ‘respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,’ he has already publicly pledged to sign the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act. An executive order could create broad exemptions to federal civil rights protections that allow anyone to deny basic services to LGBT people if they feel that doing so violates their religion.”

“America has a rich tradition of social change beginning in our pews and our pulpits,” Trump said before signing the bill. “We must never infringe on the noble tradition of change from the church and progress from the pew.”
“Under my administration, free speech does not end at the steps of a cathedral or a synagogue or any other house of worship. We are giving our churches their voices back and we are giving them back in the highest form.”
The order made no mention of LGBT rights.

His order, however, netted little change.   Campaign Legal Center general counsel, Lawrence Noble, told CNN  “President Trump’s executive order did not ease the current restrictions on political activity by religious organizations, The executive order allows the IRS to restrict the activity it currently considers political, but prohibits the IRS from expanding the restrictions to cover activity not covered before the executive order.”

CNN noted that the order does not offer exceptions for groups to deny services to anyone based on religious grounds.
The order, entitled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” does instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to interpret the order: “In order to guide all agencies in complying with relevant Federal law, the Attorney General shall, as appropriate, issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law,” it reads.
That has some LGBT advocates concerned.
National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling issued a statement that sums up the concerns and relief of the day.
“Thanks to the overwhelming pushback from so many communities, President Trump stopped short today of explicitly endorsing anti-LGBT discrimination. But this vaguely worded order is clearly aimed at providing a license to discriminate against LGBT people, women, religious minorities, and others—while also eroding the separation of church and state. President Trump has simply asked others in his administration to do much of his dirty work, like today’s Congressional vote to take away health care from millions of Americans, any effort to divide this nation is dangerous, un-American, and will ensure that those who fight for equality will do so until such efforts are dead for good. We call on transgender people and their loved ones to keep making their voices heard by their elected officials. This is our country too.”
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