- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The White House said President Trump intends to preserve an order signed by President Obama protecting employees of federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, responding to concerns raised by gay rights activists.

The White House took the unusual step Tuesday of reassuring Americans that Mr. Trump doesn’t plan to issue an executive order to roll back legal protections for LGBT citizens.

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

The statement from the office of White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a 2014 executive order signed by Mr. Obama, which protects employees of federal contractors from anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, “will remain intact at the direction of” Mr. Trump.

Still, gay rights groups accused the Trump administration of plans to issue a directive that they claimed would permit discrimination against citizens on the basis of sexual orientation.

American Civil Liberties Union LGBT project director James Esseks said Mr. Trump “has surrounded himself with a vice president and Cabinet members who have repeatedly sought to sanction discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion.”

“LGBT immigrants, refugees, Muslims and women have already come under attack by this administration,” Mr. Esseks said. “If Donald Trump is serious about being an ally to the LGBT community, it starts with abandoning an agenda driven by fear and prejudice.”

The head of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest organization for LGBT rights, said Mr. Trump hasn’t promised to oppose any broad move that would allow government employees or others to discriminate.

“Claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House.”

Mr. Griffin said the president “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.”

“You can’t claim to be an ally when you send LGBTQ refugees back to countries where their lives are at risk,” he said. “You can’t claim support and then rip away lifesaving services made possible through the Affordable Care Act for transgender people and those living with HIV or AIDS.”

Mr. Spicer’s office said the president “is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”

While many gay rights groups said they weren’t satisfied with the White House’s assurances, American Unity Fund senior adviser Tyler Deaton called it “a bold statement.”

“A Republican president has never spoken so clearly or so forcefully to the unique needs of the LGBTQ community,” he said.

Mr. Deaton said legislation is needed in Washington to guarantee protections against discrimination because at least 30 states lack measures specifically outlawing bias in employment and other areas for LGBT citizens.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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