Religious Conservatives Unsettled by Trump’s Move to Continue Obama’s Executive Order to Protect Homosexual Workers

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with “LGBTs for TRUMP” written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley, Colorado, on Oct. 30, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Lost amid the ongoing furor over President Trump’s travel ban and the ecstasy (and agony) over his first pick for the Supreme Court was another move on Tuesday (Jan. 31) that is starting to give social conservatives pause: Trump’s continuance of the executive order by President Obama’s policy that protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination while working for federal contractors.

And not only did Trump extend the protections, but he did so in powerful language that used the community’s own “LGBTQ” identifier while vowing that Trump would be “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.”

The statement added that Trump was “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.”

Initially, perhaps because there was so much else going on, there seemed to be few objections. But by Wednesday the critiques began rolling in.

In an early-morning column, Erick Erickson, editor of The Resurgent and a leading Christian conservative, said keeping that executive order violated a “core commitment” that Trump as a candidate had made to the evangelicals whose support was key to his victory.

“He should not be allowed to hang his hat on one Supreme Court nominee when there are so many other areas in which the Obama administration wreaked havoc,” Erickson wrote in the Wednesday (Feb. 1) post titled, “A Big Promise Kept. Another Promise Broken.”

“This executive order treats the faithful adherents of major religions as second-class citizens when it comes to competing for government contracts,” he said.

Then later Wednesday two prelates who lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious freedom and family life committees issued a statement calling Trump’s decision not to rescind Obama’s 2014 executive order “troubling and disappointing.”

The workplace discrimination protection order is “deeply flawed,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. It “creates problems rather than solves them,” they said. “In seeking to remedy instances of discrimination, it creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith.”

The belated response to Trump’s order may also have been due to the fact that in the days leading up to the president’s move it was widely rumored that Trump would either overturn Obama’s executive order or that he would issue broad exemptions from the order for religious groups who reject homosexuality.

But if there was a sense of betrayal – eased by his choice of Neil Gorsuch, a favorite of religious conservatives to fill the high court vacancy left by Antonin Scalia – Trump’s move was also a reminder to social conservatives that he is far more supportive of gay rights than any other Republican president, and more so than his base.

As conservative commentator Matt Lewis tweeted, “Trump is arguably more ‘pro-gay’ than Obama was when first elected.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service