What We Learned Last Week

Dear Family Equality Council Stakeholders,

Last week was a rough week for our families, and not just in Washington DC. News spread on Tuesday that the Trump Administration, anxious for a “win”, was reviving the anti-LGBTQ executive order that we defeated in February. This order would have created sweeping religious exemptions, granting federal employees, contractors, or anyone receiving federal funds a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

We mobilized quickly and joined with our allies to make clear that throwing the LGBTQ community under the bus to appease those with extreme, anti-LGBTQ views would not stand. We rallied outside the White House. The White House phones were “down”, so we flooded the President’s twitter account. And late Wednesday night, we got word that the President’s team had been rewriting the executive order all day, and that the administration was attempting instead to relax restrictions on political spending by religious organizations and attacking the rules that ensure women have access to contraception and vital healthcare measures whatever their employers’ religious beliefs. Language explicitly targeting the LGBTQ community was gone, replaced with a broad directive for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law.”

Some commentators rushed to call this a win for the LGBTQ community, but you and I know that to call this a win is to fundamentally misunderstand what is happening here.

First: the order signed yesterday blurs the boundaries between church and state, attempts to promote partisan political activity and spending by houses of worship and religious organizations, and limits access to contraception and other critical preventative healthcare for all women. ALL OF THESE moves harm LGBTQ families, and disproportionately harm those families that are most vulnerable . We must not let anti-LGBTQ forces divide us from our allies in the reproductive rights movement, or our interfaith allies, all of whom are directly targeted by yesterday’s order.

Second: the directive to Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who has an abysmal record on LGBTQ rights – grants the Department of Justice a broad license to overlook, permit, or even encourage discrimination against the LGBTQ community by federal employees, contractors, and grantees.

If you want an example of what that looks like, you need look no further than Sessions’ home state of Alabama, where last Wednesday night Governor Ivey signed into law a bill that allows some state-licensed adoption and foster care agencies to reject qualified LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents based on the agency’s religious beliefs.

Here’s the lesson I believe we must learn from this past week:

Once again, the Trump Administration has signaled a clear lack of concern for LGBTQ rights, and has allowed the many anti-LGBTQ voices both inside and outside the White House to drive the political agenda. We should also learn that pressure works. The Trump Administration is walking a tight-rope of public opinion, and we know that the majority of Americans are on our side. But we will have to keep the pressure up. We have to keep making clear that our families deserve equal protection under the law, just like every other American family.

To do this, we need your help. Support our efforts to protect LGBTQ families with a donation today of $50, $100 or even $500 or $1,000 if you are able.

We need to be prepared for more weeks like this, and we need to be ready to show those who would deprive us of our rights that our families deserve the legal and lived equality that we are fighting for. Consider joining our Protectors Circle, with a monthly gift of $100 or more.

Tenacity, Courage, Hope!

The Reverend Stan J. Sloan, CEO