Republicans In Congress Push Trump to Sign Religious Liberty Executive Order

U.S. President Donald Trump takes questions from reporters during a lengthy news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 16, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Dozens of Republican lawmakers are asking President Trump to scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians in order to make good on a campaign promise to protect religious liberty.

In early February, Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would reverse former President Obama’s orders prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in the federal workforce or by federal contractors. But the order was never signed.

A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Trump this month to “request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty, as reported by numerous outlets on February 2, 2017, in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.” The letter has not been publicly released but was obtained by USA Today.

In February, the White House said Trump had no plans to sign such an order: “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.”

But on Monday, a senior White House official told USA Today that some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that the president is trying to find middle ground. The official did not want to publicly discuss a policy that is still under development.

The official said that Trump has been clear about his support for the LGBTQ community — including after the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and again during the Republican National Convention — and that he does not support any kind of discrimination. But Trump also believes there should be policies that allow for people to express and maintain their strongly held religious beliefs, the official said.

The official acknowledged it would be a delicate balance and said discussions were ongoing about how best to proceed.

Beyond the workforce protections, the widely circulated draft order would have eliminated the contraceptive mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance for birth control. Republicans lawmakers are also pushing for the order to allow for doctors to refuse on religious grounds to perform abortions. The lawmakers also want to see protections for religious nonprofits to be able to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio — who led the charge on the April letter — said it makes no sense to defend the Obama executive order or the other policies that Davidson believes cause undue stress to people who are trying to practice their faith.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service

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