State of the Union: President Trump Invokes ‘Religious Liberty,’ Which He Has Used to Target LGBTQ Americans

By Shane Stahl • January 30, 2018 • 11:18 pm

During his first State of the Union address on January 30, President Trump made no explicit mention of LGTBQ Americans, but he did invoke the term “religious liberty,” which he and his administration have used repeatedly in the past year to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. 

He said, “[We] have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.”

The President’s remarks are the latest in his and his administration’s year-long history of distorting the meaning of religious freedom in hopes of easing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

It would be wise to remember that President Trump’s record on LGBTQ Americans has been abysmal. Here’s just a partial rundown of the anti-LGBTQ actions he has taken this year – including his “historic actions to protect religious liberty”:

In January, the administration rescinded the non-binding guidance issued to schools by the Obama administration regarding how best to treat transgender students with respect. In May, the President signed an executive order affirming his administration’s commitment to “religious liberty.” Trump’s Department of Justice announced in mid-2017 it would no longer interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, regarding sex discrimination, to apply to transgender people. And most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a new division dedicated to “conscience and religious freedom,” which accompanies a new rule that healthcare providers may refuse to treat LGBTQ people based on their religious beliefs.

Trump’s most notorious anti-LGBTQ decision came in July 2017, when he issued a series of tweets declaring that transgender soldiers were “unfit” for service, and would be banned from serving in the military. In August of last year, he signed an executive order enforcing the ban, which sparked a flurry of lawsuits from several soldiers and LGBTQ organizations, including the ACLU, GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal. Currently, a court-ordered stay has been imposed on the ban, and as of January this year, transgender people are able to enlist or extend their commitment to serving in the armed forces.

At the Republican National Convention in 2016, President Trump asserted the need to respect LGBTQ people. We agree, of course, that LGBTQ people should be respected and treated equally – it’s now well past time for President Trump to heed his own words, stop hurting LGBTQ people, and start taking steps to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination once and for all.

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said today:

The virulent attacks that have been made on LGBTQ people in the Trump administration are causing irreparable harm to the daily lives of Americans around the country. Tonight’s speech concludes a year of hateful policy that is making our country weaker, not stronger. The presence of transgender soldiers tonight in the House chamber while President Trump addressed the country is a reminder that the president’s insistence on singling out and removing brave, loyal transgender service members from the military is cruel and un-American. LGBTQ Americans must remain united in our common goal and continue to organize to send a message that equal treatment is an imperative cornerstone of the American promise, without exemption or exception.”

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