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White House: ‘Religious freedom’ EO will affect churches, not LGBT people

Advocates raised fears measure under imperil LGBT rights

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USSR, Trump era, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An expected “religious freedom” order from President Trump will address the tax-exemption status of churches as opposed to undermining LGBT rights, according to multiple media reports of a White House background briefing.

On the call Wednesday night, a White House official said the executive order would work to fulfill Trump’s promise to repeal Johnson Amendment — a 1954 that prohibits 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, such as churches — from making political endorsements, according to Buzzfeed. Repealing the Johnson Amendment was among the campaign promises of Trump, who said he’d “destroy” the measure.

But amid widespread fear among LGBT rights supporters the executive order would allow discrimination against LGBT people, the White House official reportedly said the directive won’t pertain to those issues.

Jennifer Jacobs, a White House reporter with Bloomberg, posted on Twitter a one-page memo outlining the executive order, which will be timed with the celebration of the National Day of Prayer at the White House.

The one-pager indicates the order would also highlight the Trump administration’s support for religious freedom and provide “regulatory relief for religious objectors to Obamacare’s burdensome preventive services mandate, a position supported by the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.”

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was tight-lipped under questioning from the Washington Blade on the nature of the “religious freedom” executive order and whether it would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

The White House’s characterization of the executive order stands in contrast to a draft “religious freedom” executive order that has circulated among federal advocacy groups and would enable discrimination on the basis of religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity. The proposed measure would gut former President Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination against federal contractors, which the White House said Trump planned to keep intact.

The White House hasn’t yet made public the text of the executive order. After speaking out against the “religious freedom” measure at a rally on Wednesday, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Twitter called on Trump to make the draft public to verify it won’t discriminate against LGBT people.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Ellen Sturtz

    May 4, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Just because it does not call out the LGBTQ community specifically, it is still another declaration of the administration’s intention to use “moral conscience” and “religious liberty” to discriminate against our community and others. We must stand up against this EO’s declaration, since you might not think they are coming for us this time, breathing a sigh of relief, but don’t be fooled. Remember Hobby Lobby, when most of us sat it out.

    • Chris Lamparello

      May 4, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Wrong. This order in no way permits discrimination against LGBT people. Period.

      • uhhuhh

        May 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm

        Why are you so defensive? Trump has already screwed over trans folks repeatedly as well as stuck an anti-gay bigot on the Supreme Court for 40 years.

        Ellen says, “since you might not think they are coming for us this time, breath a sigh of relief, but don’t be fooled.”

        RIGHT!

      • lnm3921

        May 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        It already tries to give religious groups an unfair advantage by trying to circumvent the Johnson Act which puts GLBT groups on a level playing field with religious organizations dedicated to opposing our legal rights and freedoms!

        We can’t get tax exemptions for fighting for our rights but all they have to do is whine religious freedom and free speech to get one to lobby against us! That in itself is discrimination!

        Stop trying to sell us on Trump being good for LGBT! Religious freedom bills aren’t a priority now because he hasn’t been focused on it yet! But like he said, he’s about keeping his promises to his supporters which is promoting polices that will harm GLBT!

        What is he doing about gays in Chechnya if he cares so much about us?! He hasn’t even bothered to mention it and don’t talk to me about Nikki Haley. Obama made it a priority to defend us directly not regulate it to underlings while not even acknowledging there is a problem!

  2. Harshan

    May 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Wait until someone realizes that this EO works in both directions. If a church can function as a political advocacy group, what stops a political advocacy group from acting as a church? The barrier has fallen! Bear in mind that not all religious groups use religious terms (Jehovah’s Witnesses have Kingdom Halls, Quakers go to Meetings, some “evangelicals” go to Christian Centers, and so forth.)

    There is precedent.

    Long ago, dianetics practitioners found themselves in trouble with the FDA because their e-meters (galvanometers) did not qualify as medical devices. So they transformed themselves into the Scientology Church. They can now use e-meters all they like without regulatory oversight.

    For example, HRC could reincorporate as the Human Rights Church, but only use the acronym externally. They can continue as before, but donations would be deductible.

    This EO is more likely to destroy churches, not empower them.

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Local

Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Politics

Biden to nominate LGBTQ synagogue rabbi to religious freedom commission

Sharon Kleinbaum joined NYC’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992

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Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

President Biden on Friday announced he plans to nominate the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992.

“She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership,” reads a bio that announced Biden’s intention to nominate Kleinbaum to the commission. “She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as senior rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.”

Kleinbaum is married to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The commission seeks to defend religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. The president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress nominate members.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirment that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than three a requirement to accomodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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