MassEquality News (May 5, 2017)

MassEquality News

May 5, 2017


Trump's Executive Order: What it Means for Our CommunityBlack balance scales against a rainbow-striped background

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order that weakens the wall between Church and State, and threatens many Americans' access to vital preventive care, especially reproductive healthcare. It had been expected that this executive order would include sweeping anti-LGBTQ language similar to that in a leaked draft executive order that surfaced in February. Although it does not specifically mention LGBTQ people, make no mistake: our community is directly impacted by this executive order in several ways.

“Religious freedom is already enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution, and numerous laws exist to protect religious rights. However, it does not give anyone license to impose their beliefs on others or deny them the benefits to which they are entitled," said MassEquality Executive Director Deborah Shields, JD, MPH in response to the signing of the order. "This executive order threatens important anti-discrimination protections under the guise of defending freedom of religion."


How the Executive Order Impacts LGBTQ People

The executive order addresses three areas. First, it gives religious organizations more leeway to engage in political speech and activities such as endorsing candidates or condemning legislation without risking their tax-exempt status. In Massachusetts, this could lead to conservative clergy preaching from the pulpit to defeat LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights or any anti-discrimination legislation or ballot issues, or to oppose the election of political candidates who support these issues. We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have many clergy and religious entities supportive of equality for all, but others still actively oppose LGBTQ rights.

Another section of the order invites the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to change existing regulations to exempt private employers from offering their employees any preventive healthcare mandated by the Affordable Care Act that they object to based on religious belief. This could lead to widespread loss of insurance coverage for common types of preventive care such as contraception, vaccines against HPV and other STDs, and possibly for family-building technologies such as assisted reproduction. It could also open the door to denying coverage for PrEP and other HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment medications, and lead to LGBTQ people being refused access to vital preventive care such as cancer screenings and mammograms.

A less publicized part of the executive order, but one that poses perhaps the greatest threat to our community, instructs the Attorney General to "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law." This would give the ultra-conservative, anti-LGBTQ Attorney General Jeff Sessions the power to authorize federal agencies to allow businesses and organizations to exercise religion-based discrimination against any group of people they don't like—including LGBTQ people, women, people of color, etc.—with impunity. We expect to see a dramatic increase in religious exemptions in federally-funded services and programs as a result of this order, many of which will specifically target the LGBTQ community.


As the full impact of the executive order is felt in the days and weeks to come, know that MassEquality has your back, and that we will do everything in our power to protect the rights of our community members. We stand with you, and in firm opposition to any executive order or law that would deny LGBTQ people their equality, dignity, rights and respect. We will be watching for any attempt to use or extend the provisions of this executive order to threaten our community's rights.