The latest directive coming out of the Trump administration that has Christian conservatives rejoicing and LGBT activists furious reveals the predictable challenge of a president who promised to advocate for two groups that very often have opposing interests.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a sweeping directive to agencies to do as much as possible to accommodate Americans who say their religious freedoms are being violated. But critics say that move may be undercutting protections for LGBT people.
The move is President Trump's latest attempt to deliver to the 80 percent of white evangelicals who backed him in the general election and who still mostly have favorable views of him despite him receiving record low approval ratings in general. From the Associated Press:
Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.
But gay rights activists are concerned about the decision and point to it as the latest example of a president uninterested in protecting the rights of LGBT Americans.
“The Trump-Pence administration launched an all-out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities by unleashing a sweeping license to discriminate,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “This blatant attempt to further Donald Trump's cynical and hateful agenda will enable systematic, governmentwide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families.”
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backward. We will fight them every step of the way,” he added.
Trump, who allies said had a history of respecting his LGBT employees in the business world, campaigned to be a much better advocate for the LGBT community than rival Hillary Clinton despite his being the Republican Party's nominee.
Clinton campaigned to continue the legacy of the Obama administration on LGBT issues, which many considered to be the most supportive White House to the LGBT community in American history. But Trump was praised for incorporating LGBT Americans into the Republican National Convention in ways that had never been done previously and for appealing to the communities concerns about national security — an issue he addressed frequently on the campaign.
“I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he tweeted to the LGBT community following the Orlando shooting in which nearly 50 people were killed in an LGBT nightclub.
But since Trump entered the White House, his administration has made multiple decisions that have found him on the receiving end of much criticism from LGBT Americans — and praise from his more conservative base.
However, many conservative Christians have praised Trump for responding to their anxieties about the direction in which they believed America was headed.
“We believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation. The enemy is trying to take it in another direction, not Christianity,” said Linda Shebsta, a Burelson, Tex., resident who joined other conservative Christian women on the Mall earlier this week for a prayer event.
Shebsta told The Post's Julie Zauzmer that the Supreme Court's authorization of same-sex marriage was proof of Satan at work during the Obama administration. “We believe God put Donald Trump in,” she said.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the Liberty University president who was an early supporter of the Trump campaign, has said that in Trump Christians “have found their dream president.”
But some Americans are wondering if there is room for LGBT Americans in the Oval Office along with Trump's evangelical base.
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology — believe me,” the president said at the Republican National Convention.
Now some LGBT Americans are left wondering if there's anyone in the White House to protect them from American ideology that they deem hateful.
Eliel Cruz-Lopez, a LGBT activist, said that Trump’s appeals to the LGBT community should have always been viewed with skepticism given his loyalties to conservative Christians.
“Trump has been a clear threat to the LGBT community from day one of his campaign,” he told the Fix. “First by his ambivalence toward issues that affect our community and then by courting the white evangelical vote.
“It is the evangelical vote that put him in office, and it is their interests that he has in mind,” he added.