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Equality Texas Responds To ‘License to Discriminate’ Executive Order
Posted on May 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm

TEXAS – Today, the President of the United States signed a Free Speech and Religious Liberty executive order. The unprecedented action is a thinly-veiled attempt to promote discrimination. LGBTQ Texans and people of faith know the president’s executive order is misusing religious freedom to promote discrimination.

Equality Texas’ chief executive officer, Chuck Smith, provided the following statement:

“Trump’s vague words of support for the LGBTQ community during his campaign and after his inauguration have proven to be empty platitudes. So far, the administration has rescinded critical Title IX guidance that affirmed the dignity of transgender youth; nominated state Senator Mark Green from Tennessee to serve as Army Secretary – despite Green’s long track record of advancing anti-LGBTQ bills and saying transgender people have a “disease;” and has indicated via the Department of Justice that the United States would no longer support a regulation banning discrimination against transgender people in healthcare. Today’s executive order will directly impact those of minority faiths, unmarried couples, single parents, and almost anyone else. Trump’s executive order weakens the Johnson Amendment to allow churches to pour money into politics to promote discrimination, and advances discrimination against people who rely on contraception for their healthcare needs. The impact of this discrimination will be felt by women, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities. Instead of providing ‘regulatory relief’ to those who want to be able to discriminate by imposing their religious beliefs on others, our leaders at the state and federal level should be working diligently to give relief to the millions of people who are still vulnerable. The free exercise of religion is fundamental to our American values. That’s why it’s already fully protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. No executive order will ever change that fundamental right. Any state bill or federal action that allows someone to force their personal religious beliefs onto others is not religious liberty.

Donald Trump’s Executive Order instructs the Attorney General to provide guidance to all agencies on “interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.” This sweeping approach could result in an unprecedented expansion of religious exemptions affecting employment, services, and programs. Revisiting federal law, including regulations and policies, will almost certainly have significant implications for LGBTQ people. In essence, the executive order punts the question of how and where the administration will permit discrimination against LGBTQ people to Jeff Sessions, a man who has consistently denied LGBTQ people equality under the law.

Now is the time for our elected leaders to stand up for the Constitution, for their constituents, and for basic human decency. We cannot allow discrimination of any kind to stand, and we implore our elected leaders to defend us and stand up against these widespread attacks.”

Some of LGBTQ protections that may be undermined include:

  • HHS could be ordered to amend the 2011 Hospital Visitation regulations ensuring that same-sex spouses and designated partners have access to their loved ones if they are hospitalized. This rule was adopted following a series of tragic cases of discrimination in which same-sex spouses and partners were kept away from sick and dying partners simply because of their sexual orientation. This executive order could require HHS to implement damaging religious exemptions that would allow hospitals to turn away these family members based on the hospital’s religious beliefs — leading patients to die alone.
  • HUD could be required to amend the 2011 Equal Access Rule, which ensures that everyone seeking HUD-funded housing including emergency shelters and public housing are served fairly regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Under this rule, emergency shelters receiving federal funding can no longer turn someone back to the streets just because of who they are. Today’s executive order could require expansive religious exemptions that would allow federal dollars to fund shelters that adopt formal policies refusing to recognize marriages of same-sex couples or the gender identity of transgender people.
  • In the federal workplace, anti-LGBTQ speech and actions may be accommodated without fear of reprisal.  
  • The Social Security Administration could adopt a policy allowing workers to refuse to process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse. They could be allowed to refuse to process a benefits application for the couple’s children, including a simple application for a Social Security card.
  • Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs could refuse to process paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse and their family also citing religious objections to same-sex marriage.  
  • Internal Human Resource officers at federal agencies could also be allowed to refuse to process a federal worker’s application for spousal health insurance coverage for a same-sex spouse.  
  • Federal workers would also be allowed to refuse to use gender appropriate pronouns and names of transgender co-workers without fear of reprisal.
  • The State Department could be required to include a religious exemptions for private businesses contracting with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide services including healthcare, nutrition support, and education. This would allow organizations receiving federal funds and representing the U.S. abroad to turn away LGBTQ people because of their beliefs on same-sex marriage and relationships or transgender people.