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Tony Perkins: More action from Trump soon on ‘religious freedom’

Anti-LGBT leader says follow-up to executive order coming next week

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Tony Perkins, gay news, Washington Blade
Tony Perkins, gay news, Washington Blade

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says more action on “religious freedom” is coming next week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In the aftermath of a religious freedom executive order signed by President Trump that had no explicit reference to LGBT issues, the head of a top anti-LGBT group close to the White House said more action is coming next week on the issue — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, made the remarks last night on “Washington Watch” the weekly radio broadcast produced by the organization.

“By the way, stand by next week, you’re going to see some follow-up to the president’s executive order on religious liberty,” Perkins said. “The next phase of that is going to be coming about and I think it is going to be very instructive. We are going to see government agencies basically put on notice that they have to respect religious freedom. And that is not just the ability to believe, it is the free exercise of religion.”

It’s unclear exactly what Perkins was referencing. Earlier this year, a draft executive order on “religious freedom” that would have enabled sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination circulated among federal agencies and advocacy groups, although Trump never signed the order.

Instead, Trump in May signed a religious freedom executive order that was largely a symbolic statement in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and against the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law barring churches and religious non-profits from making political endorsements.

The directive made no explicit reference to LGBT issues, although it charged U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions with implementing federal guidance in favor of religious freedom. That language alarmed some LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign, who said it opened the door for discrimination.

At a conference earlier this month, for the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, Sessions said guidance for “religious freedom” is on the way.

Although he didn’t offer details, the attorney general said it would “help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” That law, which prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, was passed in 1993 on a bipartisan basis, but has been cited as legal basis for allowing anti-LGBT discrimination.

“Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason,” Sessions said. “That is a demanding standard, and it’s the law of the land. We will follow it just as faithfully as we follow every other federal law. If we’re going to ensure that religious liberty is adequately protected and our country remains free, then we must ensure that RFRA is followed.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, distributed the audio of Perkins predicting action on “religious freedom” and warned Trump against following through with discrimination.

“If President Trump issues another executive order based on advice from anti-LGBTQ extremist groups like the Family Research Council, he will be harming countless hardworking Americans and their families,” Ellis said in a statement. “The ‘religious exemptions’ laws that groups like the Family Research Council are successfully pushing fly in the face of real American values and open LGBTQ people and our children up to discrimination.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    July 27, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Why should this surprise anyone? I have no doubt that the fake POTUS will back anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom! He played those of you that were duped by his promises to protect LGBT Americans while holding up a rainbow flag as evidenced time and again since he assumed office. Despite all that BS from Thiel at the RNC and all the GLBT that supported him!

    Except for preserving the exectuive order Obama had protecting LBGT from discrimination (which he can easily undermine or rescind at any time), he has backstabbed trans people twice by abandoning the court case before the SCOTUS for bathroom rights, and now serving the military, signed an executive order to undermine the Johnson Amendment so religious groups can keep tax exempt status despite pushing a political agenda against the community, ignored gay men being forced into concentration camps in Chechnya, refused to recognize Pride month and recently tacitly approved Session filing a brief to say existing civil rights laws do not protect GLBT against discrimination!

    Let’s not forget that there is a court case going to the SCOTUS challenging anti-discrimination laws that penalize business that refuse to serve gay couples. I’m sure that Session if still AG will also file a brief in favor of religious freedom! That opens the door for anyone to use the faith card against you in any capacity!

    This is the most anti-GLBT administration in over 25 years that I can recall! Time to wake up to the grim reality and deal with it! You’ll see Trump only make it worse as he works with the likes of Tony Perkins to push that agenda! This should silence those uppity Trump supporters in our community that keep trying to dupe us into thinking that we only have Muslims to fear and that christian conservatives are not a threat. That we have nothing to fear from Trump and his agenda! Stop accepting the lies and work hard to oust this tyrant! We need to first start by getting rid of the GOP control of Congress so Trump cannot push his agenda against us!

    • SWSimpson

      July 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      I couldn’t be any less surprised… still angry though.

      • lnm3921

        July 28, 2017 at 5:43 pm

        Anger is good. Channel it to take action to oust the fake potus and stop the damaging agenda!!!

  2. Culture Club Warrior

    July 31, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Makes sense. Normalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people first, and then it’ll be easier to go after other groups later.

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Comings & Goings

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Troy Cline, gay news, Washington Blade
The 'Comings & Goings' column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Shin Inouye, gay news, Washington Blade
Steven McCarty

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on being named president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. He said, “I’m honored to be installed as the president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. and to be able to shepherd our programs and volunteers to impact youth where they are needed most. Our club’s new partnership with SMYAL has already turned a portion of their Youth Center in Southeast D.C. into the first Clinical Services Department in the District that offers free and affirming mental healthcare to LGBTQ Youth. As an openly gay man, I’m proud to further our club’s mission with radical empathy and inclusion.” McCarty has also recently been awarded Kiwanis’ highest honor, the George Hixson award.

McCarty is a Technical Program Specialist at stac labs in D.C. He is also founder and campaign manager at Abolish Racism 2020. He worked as a Senior Customer Success Manager,  Crowdskout. He was a workplace equality intern at Human Rights Campaign and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, in Lansing, Mich. 

McCarty earned his bachelor’s in Political Science and Communications Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Congratulations also to Shin Inouye on his appointment as Executive Vice President of Communications, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund said, “We are thrilled Shin Inouye will be taking on even greater responsibilities on our senior leadership team. His incredible talent and commitment to this organization and our work are truly outstanding, and his strategic leadership will no doubt continue moving us forward in the fight to protect and advance civil and human rights.”

Inouye has held a number of positions with the organization including Managing Director of Communications. Inouye also held a number of high-level positions in the Obama administration, including Press Secretary and Acting Senior Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Executive Office of the President; White House Office of Communications: Director of Specialty Media; and served as an authorized spokesperson for the Obama Inaugural Committee, with a focus on specialty media outlets, including LGBTQ, AAPI, Native American, Youth/College, Faith, and Jewish press. Prior to that Inouye was Communications Director in the Office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and has also worked for the ACLU and as a summer intern with the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. 

Inouye received a number of honors including being named One of 25 “LGBTI next generation leaders to watch” by Out in National Security and the Atlantic Council; and One of “40 Asian American Pacific Islander National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders” by New America and the Diversity in National Security Network.

Shin Inouye
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World

Petition urges White House to develop plan to protect LGBTQ Afghans

Taliban regained control of country on Aug. 15

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Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition that urges the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country.

The Human Rights Campaign; the Council for Global Equality; Immigration Equality; Rainbow Railroad; the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and the International Refugee Assistance Project on Friday presented to the White House the petition that urges the administration to adopt “a 10-point action plan … to expedite and ease the refugee and asylum process for LGBTQI Afghans.”

The same six groups last month urged the Biden administration to adopt a plan that would “prioritize the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people, and ensure that any transitory stay in a third country is indeed temporary by expediting refugee processing.” The groups, among other things, asked the White House to “speak out forcefully against human rights abuses by the new Taliban regime and any increased targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQI people, and use existing mechanisms to sanction and hold accountable perpetrators of human rights abuse.”

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Rainbow Railroad and Immigration Equality are among the other groups that have continued their efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans since American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. Some of the 50 Afghan human rights activists who Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, has been able to help leave the country are LGBTQ.

“We reiterate our call for President Biden to adopt the 10-point policy plan which will expedite and ease the refugee process for LGBTQI Afghans,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof in a press release. “The 10,000+ people who signed our petition have demonstrated that they want the United States, long a beacon of refuge for those fleeing persecution, to take action to protect LGBTQI Afghans—a vulnerable group who risk oppression, even death, simply for who they are or who they love. Now is the time for action.”

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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