In what could be a troubling strike against the LGBTQ community, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order on religious liberty as early as Thursday. If signed, the controversial measure would permit groups and business owners to cite their religious faith as a reason to refuse services and goods to people.
Two senior administration officials confirmed Thursday’s plan to Politico, though one stressed that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. If Trump’s support of such legislation is true, however, it’s certain to spark the ire of LGBTQ advocacy groups, and for good reason.
In the last few years, bakeries, florist shops and other wedding-related vendors have made headlines after their owners refused to serve same-sex couples who were planning to tie the knot. Same-sex marriage, those business owners claimed, simply went against their religious beliefs.
In March 2015, Vice President Mike Pence ― who was then governor of Indiana ― signed a statewide Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. At the time, Pence argued that the law did not allow discrimination against anyone. LGBTQ rights advocates felt differently, and Apple, Marriott and other corporations condemned the law. (Pence signed a revised version explicitly barring Indiana businesses from denying services to someone on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity days later.)
In February, a document that was said to be a draft of Trump’s original religious freedom executive order was leaked to HuffPost, The Nation and other media outlets. That version, titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” vowed to protect the tax-exempt status of any religious organization or privately held company that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female.”
The White House quickly distanced itself from the leaked document, while the order itself was reportedly abandoned at the suggestion of Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Still, there were reports that Pence and a small team of conservative allies began revising the order shortly thereafter. The aim of the revised draft, one official told Politico, hasn’t changed much since the version leaked in February. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.
Whether or not the executive order reaches Trump’s desk on Thursday remains to be seen. But a number of high-profile queer advocacy groups, including GLAAD, GLSEN and the National LGBTQ Task Force, are already condemning the move.
“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,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a 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.”
ThinkProgress’s Zack Ford felt similarly, and tweeted Wednesday:
See how other LGBTQ groups reacted to the reports below.