If signed, the Executive Order would allow for discrimination against the LGBTIQ community, among others, providing a religious or moral objection. A first draft of the bill was leaked on February 1st and was tabled after public outcry and pushback. It is understood that Vice President Pence has since continued to lobby for the adoption of a revised version of the religious exemption bill. If signed, this Executive Order would override President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order which protects federal employees against LGBTIQ-based discrimination. The White House has not announced details of the order or when it will be signed.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, commented on the pending bill, saying,
“Governments around the world try to excuse persecution of minorities – including LGBTIQ people – with religious beliefs. It is no more right in the United States than anywhere else. Discrimination is discrimination regardless of how it is justified.”
Religious organisations, a term loosely defined, and individuals can claim religious freedom, “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
The Executive Order would allow for discrimination of LGBTIQ people in a number of ways:
- Allowing individuals and establishments to refuse services to same-sex couples or their children.
- Giving leeway for federal employees to refuse to process marriage registrations of same-sex couples.
- Denying the recognition of an individual’s gender identity and protecting the standing of any organisation that believes biological sex is immutable at birth.
- Allowing federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.
“We know too well that these kinds of divisive policies risk becoming an excuse for persecution and maybe even violence against LGBTIQ people, especially when individuals feel emboldened to express their homophobic and transphobic beliefs. Religion should not be a state-sanctioned excuse for discrimination.”