LGBT advocates scared, despite White House words on equality

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By Laila Kearney | NEW YORK

NEW YORK Advocates said on Tuesday they were
bracing for moves by U.S. President Donald Trump’s
administration to roll back lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender equality, despite a White House statement vowing to
uphold protection for LGBT people in the workplace.

Trump will continue to enforce a 2014 executive order by his
Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, barring discrimination
against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working
for federal contractors, the White House said.

The statement marked a break with the Republican party’s
traditional stance on gay rights, but advocates said they feared
Trump could still take executive actions that would allow
discrimination under the guise of religious exemptions.

“LGBTQ people must remain on guard for attacks,” said Sarah
Kate Ellis, president of the civil rights group GLAAD.

Enforcing the 2014 order puts Trump at odds with many fellow
Republicans, who for the most part have fought civil rights
protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Some conservatives have softened their positions in recent
years, however, particularly toward gay marriage.

“The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP
(Republican) nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his
nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the
community from violence and oppression,” the White House said in
its statement.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had acknowledged gay
rights and called on LGBT voters to cast their ballots for him.

But by picking Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a staunch
conservative Christian, as his vice president, as well as other
senior officials who oppose gay rights, Trump has sent a clear
message to the community, said Chad Griffin, president of Human
Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and queer advocacy organization.

“Trump talks a big game on his support for LGBTQ people, yet
he has filled his cabinet with people who have literally spent
their careers working to demonize us and limit our rights,” he
said in a statement. “Claiming ally status for not overturning
the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar.”

The White House statement came as Trump prepares to name his
choice to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the
death last year of Antonin Scalia.

Trump’s nominee, scheduled to be announced at 8 p.m. ET on
Tuesday (0100 GMT on Wednesday), will likely be influential on a
number of issues including religious rights as well as gay and
transgender rights.

In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, Trump indicated that the
Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage should stand.

Trump’s nominee pick will be especially revealing about his
stance on equality, said Shannon Minter, legal director for the
National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Whoever is in that seat is going to have a huge impact,”
Minter said. “It is so critical that the Senate not confirm any
nominee who is going to roll back the clock on LGBT equality.”

Trump’s pick for attorney general, Republican U.S. Senator
Jeff Sessions, has pledged to enforce laws upheld by the Supreme
Court, even those he disagreed with, such as decisions making
abortion and same-sex marriage legal. (Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Eric Walsh in
Washington)



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