President Trump pledged to make religious freedom a priority of his administration while also promising to protect LGBT Americans like no other Republican president has before. But a recent decision from the Trump administration is a reminder that when Trump has to choose between his base and anyone else, he goes with those who helped him get to the White House.

Trump was praised after his Republican nomination acceptance speech for showing signs that he would be more supportive of the LGBT community than past GOP presidents. But since entering office, Trump has regularly tried to roll back decisions by President Barack Obama that gave LGBT people more rights and protections.

According to a draft of a new Health and Human Services rule, language that was introduced during the Obama administration will be removed. The language said that “no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination” based on characteristics such as age, race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

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The Washington Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha reported that America’s child-welfare system — which includes adoption and foster-care programs — will see the most significant initial impact. Religious organizations across the country that receive federal grants have argued for years that they should be exempt from working with gay, lesbian and transgender parents because of their convictions about family structure.

Instead, the Trump administration would guarantee protections required by federal statutes that cover everything except sexual orientation and gender identity. The move was applauded by groups representing conservative Christians.

In a statement, Zack Pruitt, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit group focused on religious liberty, said in a statement that the Obama regulation “failed to protect all providers and discriminated against faith-based providers simply because of their beliefs about marriage. That is not keeping kids first. HHS’s proposed rule to end this discrimination offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families, and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need.”

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But organizations advocating for the rights of gay Americans bemoaned the change, claiming it was the newest example of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT policies.

“This represents another attack by this administration on the lives of the most vulnerable in our country under the pretense of religious freedom. Religious freedom is important — we protect it in the First Amendment — but it does not extend to harming others,” Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer of the Family Equality Council, a nonprofit group that advocates for the legal rights of LGBT families, told The Post.

One of the biggest challenges supporters of gay rights have had with the Trump administration’s emphasis on religious freedom — and similar stances under other Republican presidencies — is that they believe it is invoked to keep some rights away from LGBT Americans.

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And that was the goal of some of the Christian conservatives who backed Trump in 2016 with the hope that he would reverse what they perceived to be the overly liberal direction of the Obama administration on social issues, particularly when it relates to LGBT people.

The Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa previously reported:

The Trump administration has sided against LGBT activists on a host of issues over the past two years, including banning transgender troops from serving in the military and arguing in court that civil rights laws do not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group for LGBT issues, has created a 16-page document outlining administration actions that it says are hostile to LGBT Americans.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a nonprofit group that advocates for conservative Christian values, told Politico in 2018:

Evangelical Christians “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

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For many of Trump’s evangelical supporters, a great America is one where religiously conservative values are the defining morals of society. Those worldviews are declining in popularity in an increasingly diversifying country. But as long as conservative Christians — mostly white evangelicals and white Catholics — make up large parts of Trump’s base, the president has shown that their political perspective will be prioritized, even if it means other groups may lose some privileges.

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