Report: Trump to legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination with new executive order
Protesters take part in a demonstration against Donald Trump's presidential election victory in Los Angeles. | Chelsea Lauren / AP

White House officials say Trump is planning to sign his newest executive order today in Washington. It will grant the “religious liberty” to discriminate against LGBTQ persons.

Politico reported on May 2 that the planned signing is being seen as a significant victory for Trump’s evangelical base. As governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence pushed for anti-LGBTQ ‘religious freedom’ legislation. However, after significant pushback from grassroots LGBTQ organizations, the bill was amended to explicitly deny businesses the ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation. 21 different states have so-called religious freedom laws.

Trump’s executive order is still being finalized, but a draft text was leaked in early February and appeared in The Nation. The draft order borrows its understanding of “religious organizations” from Burwell v. Hobby Lobby where the Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff and bestowed “closely-held” corporations religious rights. It expands the right to discriminate and invoke “religious freedom” as a defense in “every walk of life.”

According to Sarah Posner of The Nation, “The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.”

Sources in the administration say that the language of the executive order remains essentially unchanged from the draft.

The signing is expected to coincide with today’s National Day of Prayer, an event that brings many top evangelical leaders to Washington. It is further reported in Politico that the pressure from Vice President Mike Pence to sign the order has been “ratcheted up” in recent weeks.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump made an effort to appear moderate on LGBTQ issues, going as far as to include a shoutout to the community in his nomination speech.

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” referring to Islamic fundamentalism but saying nothing of hateful domestic ideologies.

Shortly after his victory, Trump called same-sex marriage “settled” and “law” in an interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 minutes. Figures in the media ascribe his stance on this issue to the moderating influence of his daughter Ivanka, despite little evidence. Where Trump stands on the rights of LGBTQ people will be largely determined by whether or not he signs this order, and LGBTQ grassroots and advocacy organizations are ready for the worst.

James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV Project, told The Advocate, “We are ready to sue if they do something that authorizes discrimination. If Trump signs an order like the one that we saw a couple months ago, it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

“We will fight this with everything we have,” Lambda Legal senior counsel Camilla Taylor said Tuesday, adding, “We are prepared to sue in a very short timeframe if the executive order closely resembles the leaked drafts.”

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis denounced the plan as well. “If this possible executive order is similar to February’s draft, it would do nothing except give a national license to discriminate, and endanger LGBTQ people and their families,” she said in an emailed statement.

“President Trump is trying to create an America where my children could be turned away if a pediatrician doesn’t accept my wife and I. Nothing could be more un-American.”