CLEVELAND - Sitting on the desk inside the oval office right now is an executive order waiting to be signed that has the religious right in this country cheering and many in the LGBT community worried.
In 2015, Indiana was thrust into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The state lost millions of dollars in tourism money, had businesses cut down office staff in the state, even the NCAA threatened to pull the Final Four from Indianapolis all because the state’s General Assembly signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The law aimed to allow Christian businesses, bakers, florists, wedding venues and the like, to deny services to gay couples.
“With Governor Pence at the time, I think he blinked,” said Chris Long, the President of the Ohio Christian Alliance.
Long thinks then-Governor Mike Pence buckled under national pressure and wound up changing the law to explicitly prohibit any discrimination of the LGBT community.
“The court in a 5-4 decision in enacting legalization of homosexual marriage, tying it to the 14th amendment, presents a clear and present danger to religious liberty, to churches all across the country,” said Long.
Those on the religious right claim the legalization of same-sex marriage put an unnecessary burden on Christians to perform services for wedding ceremonies they may not agree with. The president’s potential executive order, reportedly a mirror image of the religious freedom law, has broad support from religious organizations.
“All of us need religious freedoms and protections, however, that should not give a person the license or ability to then use those religious freedoms to then discriminate against others, to harm others, or to deny service to others,” said Alana Jochum, the Executive Director of Equality Ohio.
Religious freedom is already written as a fundamental right into the constitution. Jochum said there’s no need to turn a fundamental right into a license to discriminate.
“First Amendment protections are a shield and laws like the RFRAs that are being proposed or this potential executive order are trying to turn those into a sword to say I can use my beliefs to somehow actually harm you and that’s not OK,” she said.
Trump in a surprise move announced last week that he would keep an Obama administration order protecting federally contracted LGBT employees. LGBT advocates claim signing this religious freedom order would undue years of progress.