It is pretty safe to say that the first decision of the Trump administration that has gained widespread progressive approbation occurred this morning:
The White House sought Tuesday morning to calm fears that President Donald Trump will roll back protections for the LGBTQ community, issuing a statement saying he will keep in place a 2014 executive order that bans anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement reads. “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.”
The Obama order in question protects LGBTQ workers at companies with federal contracts from discrimination. Leaving it in place technically breaks Trump’s campaign pledge to revoke all of Obama’s executive orders. More to the point, today’s announcement contradicts rapidly spreading rumors that Trump was about to do something that gay-haters would love.
Or does it?
At Vox, German Lopez explains that another shoe may soon drop that could undermine today’s action significantly, or even effectively reverse it in many cases:
The decision to keep this executive order does not prevent Trump from signing another order that creates religious exemptions for the LGBTQ protections.
Depending on how that other executive order is written, it could allow federal contractors to cite their religious beliefs — for example, religious opposition to same-sex marriage or just LGBTQ people in general — to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an LGBTQ worker.
On the campaign trail, Trump said a whole lot more about protecting the right to discriminate as essential to “religious liberty” than he said about LGBTQ protections. Indeed, he received a definitive seal of approval from none other than Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, whose lawsuit defying Obamacare’s contraception-coverage mandate led to the most important Supreme Court precedent carving out an area of protected discrimination for religious individuals who run for-profit corporations. Anyone supporting that line of reasoning will certainly have no trouble exempting federal employees who claim a religious motive for disliking LGBTQ folk from the executive order allegedly protecting them.
So any celebration of Trump’s announcement today should be put on hold until we see whether it represents the president’s final word on the subject.
And keep in mind the overall context at play: Trump will tonight announce a Supreme Court nominee. “Religious liberty” enthusiasts are mostly rooting for Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Grouch, who is considered an important judicial champion of their cause. If Trump goes in another direction, he could assuage hurt feelings among conservative Christian activists by a complementary gesture like a “religious liberty” executive order. But odds are he’ll let the potentially false impression that he’s broken with the Christian Right on LGBTQ rights percolate for a while first.