Three months after a draft executive order was leaked that many saw as a thinly veiled attack on LGBTQ equality, sources close to the White House say that President Trump is aiming to sign a revised version of this "religious freedom" order on Thursday, in honor of the National Day of Prayer. Politico reports on the new version of the order, which so far has not been leaked, and a second anonymous source says, "The language [in it] is very, very strong" and not much different than the earlier draft.
Reportedly, the new draft is the work of Vice President Mike Pence and "a small team of conservative allies" who are working to sway the president after it was rumored that First Daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner worked quietly to dissuade him from signing the original order back in February just days after the highly controversial travel ban order was signed because of their more accepting views of the LGBTQ community.
The New York Times reports that the new order will also allow for churches and religious organizations to openly endorse political candidates, something that currently is disallowed via their tax-exempt status. They can not confirm that the order still contains language with regard to LGBTQ discrimination.
Thursday is expected to come with a gathering of faith leaders at the White House, and Trump is dining with some of those leaders Wednesday evening.
While President Trump had pledged during the Republican convention to "do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens," much to the pleasure of openly gay convention speaker and tech-sector ally Peter Thiel, Trump has since signaled that he would not honor that pledge with such things as the reversal of an Obama directive that protected trans students in public schools.
The draft "religious freedom" order, originally obtained in February by The Nation, contained sweeping language that appeared to want to legalize discrimination in employment and housing and allow businesses and non-profits to curtail access to contraception or abortion based on religious beliefs.
Per the draft:
Persons and organizations do not forfeit their 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... [And an individual or organization will not be penalized] on the basis that such person or organization believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
As of Tuesday, based on rumors of the order, Lambda Legal and the ACLU both have made statements that are prepared to sue if the order is signed. The ACLU addressed the possible executive order last week, based on letters to the president encouraging him to sign it that were signed by 18 Republican senators (out of 52), and 51 Republican congresspeople (out 240). They write, "For President Trump to stand any chance at following through on his campaign promise to be a 'real friend' to the LGBT community, he cannot follow fringe, anti-LGBT extremists down this ill-advised path of licensing discrimination under the guise of religious liberty."
Update: The executive order Trump signed Thursday did not, as it turned out, include language that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT people, but it did make a push to relax IRS rules around political speech by religious organizations, and suggest that companies and organizations can deny contraception and abortion coverage on religious grounds, as NBC News reports.
And the ACLU has still vowed to sue.