Trump says he won’t rescind Obama’s LGBTQ protections, but questions remain for advocates

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by Ashton Pittman

President Trump will not rescind an executive order signed by President Obama in 2014 that protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination under the hire of federal contractors. The new came amidst a flurry of reporting that suggested otherwise.

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community,” a statement released to the New York Times by the Office of the Press Secretary read. “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.”

LGBTQ rights advocates had been concerned because, in January 2016, Trump said that “one of the problems I have with what Obama did is he’s always signing executive orders” and pledged to do away with many – if not most – of President Obama’s.

Another source of concern was the choice of former Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be the country’s new Vice President. While governor, Pence signed a so-called ‘religious freedom’ law that made it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Pence is also on the record opposing recognition of gays and lesbians as a protected minority group and as supporting the use of taxpayer money to fund “conversion therapy,” a controversial practice banned in 5 states that seeks to turn gay people straight.

LGBTQ rights advocates continue to fear that Trump could sign a similar ‘religious freedom’ bill into law if given the chance. When asked about the possibility of a federal law like the one in Indiana – this time called the ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ – Trump said in December 2015 that he would “do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signatures and enactment.”

Still, some LGBTQ advocates breathed a sigh of relief at today’s announcement. Others nervously anticipate the question of who he will announce as his Supreme Court nominee Tuesday evening.

In November, Trump said that marriage equality was settled. 

“It’s irrelevant because it was already settled,” Trump said. “These cases have gone to the Supreme Court, it’s settled and I’m fine with it.”

But a list of potential Supreme Court picks he released last May included some names that were alarming to LGBTQ rights advocates. It included multiple potential justices who have been unsupportive or outright hostile to LGBTQ rights in the past, including Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Justice William H. Pryor Jr., who offered support in 2003 to a Texas law that banned made gay sex illegal and declined to hear a challenge to Florida’s ban on gay adoption.

Trump will announce his Supreme Court pick at 7 p.m. CST.

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