The White House confirmed on Jan. 31 President Donald Trump will not overturn the Obama administration’s 2014 LGBT executive order for federal contractors that limits how religious groups that do not approve of homosexuality can work in government.
“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,” according to a White House statement released Jan. 31. “The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
President Barack Obama signed the order in the summer of 2014 and received praise from progressives and LGBT supporters. The order told all federal contractors they could not consider sexuality and gender identity when making hiring decisions. Obama packaged it as an anti-discrimination order, but the action forced those with biblical beliefs on gender and sexuality either to violate their consciences or forgo their federal contracts. The Trump administration’s decision to keep it did not sit well with religious liberty advocates.
Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last summer that would have circumvented Obama’s order and allowed faith-based ministries to serve the Defense Department without violating their beliefs.
But Russell’s amendment lacked support to make it into the final version of the spending bill.
Russell told me in November that wasn’t a total loss because he had “positive signs” from Trump’s transition team that they would work with him to get rid of the executive order after Inauguration Day.
Today’s announcement was a reversal of those positive signs.
“I cannot understand why the president would prevent people of faith to continue to contract with the military,” Russell said in an emailed statement.
Last year, Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, was one of the strongest proponents of Russell’s amendment. Crews previously spent 28 years as an Army chaplain and said men and women in uniform depend on ministries to serve them through federal contracts.
Crews told me today the White House announcement was the exact opposite of what he expected from the Trump administration.
“This is like a kick in the gut,” Crews said. “I was assured this would be taken care of.”
In December, Crews had a meeting with several senior members of Congress who told him lawmakers wouldn’t need to draft legislation on the matter because Trump’s transition team would overturn the executive order.
Crews said he never had a guarantee from Trump’s staff directly, but he gave the transition team a briefing on why they needed to overturn the executive order – which garnered a positive response.
He added he would now begin contacting the lawmakers who gave him assurances and find out what they can do going forward.
LGBT supporters had a mixed reaction to the White House announcement.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said James Esseks, American Civil Liberties Union LGBT project director in a statement. “President Trump has surrounded himself with a vice president and Cabinet members who have repeatedly sought to sanction discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion, and nothing in the White House’s statement makes clear that these efforts are behind us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)