Among the potential executive orders leaked over the past few weeks was a “religious freedom” order which potentially allows discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, transgender people, people seeking abortions and anyone who has had premarital sex.
It remains unknown who drafted this bill and on Jan. 30, U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that Donald Trump’s administration had “nothing on that front now,” but the issue still looms. Many people are worried that this order or a version of it will turn up in the future, given the misogynist, cissexist and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments of most Republican politicians and especially Trump’s administration.
The full text includes language identical to the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that Trump promised he would sign. Both texts include the wording “belief … that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” (the FADA includes “or moral conviction”) and “sexual relations are properly reserved [for] such a marriage” (FADA has “to” instead of “for”).
The executive order, however, goes on to also specify the belief that “male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology or genetics at or before birth and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The order specifies that the Department of the Treasury cannot “make unavailable or deny any tax benefit” to a person or organization for professing or acting on these beliefs and sections after this also refer specifically to this list of beliefs. It is unclear whether or not whoever drafted this is aware that intersex people actually exist, but the phrase “objectively determined by anatomy, physiology or genetics” would seem to indicate the answer is no.
This phrase also seems to imply that organizations could pick and choose which characteristics to use to determine gender at their discretion and discriminate against intersex people for having any characteristics that didn’t match their gender assigned at birth. The provisions for religious foster and adoption agencies mean that would-be parents could be turned away for being in a same-gender relationship, being transgender, being pro-choice, having had an abortion in the past, having premarital sex, having affairs, using birth control or anything else that might go against the beliefs of the agency.
In theory, agencies could turn away straight couples if they suspected they had sex outside of marriage, but in reality, it will be same-gender couples and trans people who will suffer. In some states, this is already allowed, but such an executive order would make the effect widespread.
This discrimination does not only deny loving couples the chance to raise a child, it prevents children from finding families and homes. In addition, this tells LGBTQ+ children loud and clear that they are not fit to be parents and if they are waiting to be adopted this tells them they are not allowed to be part of a family with other people like them.
This is unacceptable and harmful. No child should be told that who they are is wrong. In effect, this is the goal of the FADA and this executive order: to make a distinction between people who should be protected and the people they should be protected from, the “wrong” people.
Nowhere do these texts mention specific beliefs other than these. Nowhere do they explicitly protect the rights of organizations to recognize transgender people, other genders or sexes, same-gender relationships, or people’s bodily and sexual autonomy, or to include and support certain groups of people. Nowhere do they mention the belief that all people must be treated equally or that only a higher power is allowed to pass judgement.
Nowhere do they explain why conservative Christian beliefs must be protected, but Muslims can be banned, arrested, detained, interrogated, targeted, surveilled, separated from their families and denied every basic human right because of their religion.
These are not attempts to protect religious freedom, they are attempts to formally legitimize conservative Christian power and influence in this country. This is the opposite of religious freedom. As a bisexual person, I’m glad this order was not signed, but I know this isn’t even a temporary victory, just a delay of defeat.
An executive order like this could essentially put FADA into effect without having to pass any laws. This administration is not going to stop trying to take away people’s basic rights, however, they can and I for one don’t want to stand around and watch them do it.
We’ll have to keep watching them, holding them accountable, pressuring them and protesting until they are all out of the government. Then maybe we can all rest a bit easier.
Gwynna Norton ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in mathematics.