Today we write to address the imminent possibility that President Donald Trump will sign an executive order rescinding former President Barack Obama’s executive order prohibiting discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We also share concern that President Trump will, within a few days, sign an executive order that would create a religious exemption for those who oppose marriage equality or any ordinance providing protections for LGBT people based on their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
While supporting the right to freely worship as one chooses, the Global Justice Institute absolutely opposes any and all overly broad executive orders that give individuals and organizations permission to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity as long as they maintain that to serve LGBT people violates their religious belief or moral conviction. As long as anyone can invoke their religious belief or moral conviction as a reason not to serve others, it is clear that the government is facilitating segregation and discrimination in public accommodations.
Unfortunately, such religious exemptions have a more far-reaching impact than the proponents are willing to admit. Employees in schools, child welfare agencies, and publicly-funded agencies will be allowed to refuse to serve not only same-sex couples, but also single mothers and unwed heterosexual couples, by simply claiming that they have a religious reason to withhold services. Common job duties and workplace policies that ensure that all citizens can freely access goods and services will now be overruled by an all-purpose license to discriminate. Rules and policies that apply to all people equally in the public sphere will now be subject to religious objections which unfairly target people based on their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, ethnicity, immigration status, HIV status, or a combination of these characteristics.
We strongly condemn these exclusionary practices that will take us back to a time of segregation in public accommodations, recalling a dark period in U.S. history of separate and unequal access to services. The effect is that LGBTQ people will be second class citizens, lacking equal access to public accommodations and subject to the whims of those who might fire or bar entry and deny services or health care to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We encourage all people of goodwill to add your voices in support of human equality and equal access to public accommodations by posting this statement on your Facebook pages or websites and linking to your other social media.
The Rev. DeWayne Davis
Member, Government and Policy Team
Global Justice Institute