The National Organization for Marriage is shifting the focus of its efforts to win legal cover for anti-gay discrimination from President Donald Trump to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. On Monday, NOM asked its supporters to sign a petition to Sessions, who has been tasked by Trump with devising religious liberty rules for federal agencies.
Ian Millhiser wrote at ThinkProgress last week that while the president’s recent executive order on religious liberty may not have a big impact, it did “place a significant thumb on the scale in the favor of religious conservatives,” most significantly by instructing “one of Trump’s most hardline subordinates to develop preemptive, administration-wide guidance that will govern ‘religious liberty’ related matters handled by the agencies.”
Seeking to encourage Sessions to take his new directive as far he can—and maybe positioning NOM to claim some credit if and when he does—NOM President Brian Brown is demanding that Sessions “draft comprehensive, robust rules that will fully protect the right of people of faith to subscribe to traditional moral principles without risk of governmental retribution.”
(During the campaign, NOM said the next president should “direct the Department of Justice to investigate, document and publicize cases of Americans who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections, if needed.”)
As we noted last week, there was a mixed reaction from Religious Right leaders to Trump’s Rose Garden photo-op signing of an executive order on religious liberty. While they applauded, many were also deeply disappointed that his order did not come close to the sweeping draft version that had been leaked three months earlier. That draft would have given broad legal sanction to business owners and government officials to discriminate against LGBTQ people, unwed parents, and more by creating “wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and trans identity.”
Perhaps Trump punted to Sessions as a way of deflecting criticism from those who still want to believe Trump is committed to protecting the rights and interests of LGBTQ Americans. If the administration’s vast and vastly harmful expansion of the global gag rule is an indication of what we can expect from Sessions, that illusion will become much harder to sustain.