Early this week, the White House issued a surprise statement saying, "President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community," and that "[t]he executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump."
During the campaign, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — who has a history of opposing gay marriage and defending discrimination in the name of religion — had discussed rolling back such protections, and many members of the US gay and transgender community had been bracing for a repeal.
According to Politico, they have Ivanka Trump and Kushner to thank for the reprieve. Sources close to the couple told the website that the two urged Trump instead to make a clear statement to the LGBTQ community that the federal protections would remain.
Rumors began circulating January 30 that the president was preparing to sign a draft order that would have rescinded the Obama-era protections. According to the New York Times, Ivanka and Kushner complained both to aides and directly to the president about the proposed rollback.
"There are some in Trump's family that have some views on these things," a source close to the discussions told Politico. "That's where the decision is ultimately being made."
The Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that nonetheless advocates for LGBTQ equality, has also taken some credit for the reversal. "Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have directly advocated for this important preservation of LGBT equality in the federal workforce, and heartened to see that the recommendations prescribed in our white paper on this subject have been reflected in the Trump Administration's decision to maintain the LGBT Non-Discrimination Executive Order," said Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo in a statement earlier this week.
The White House dismisses the significance of the draft order, describing it as one of hundreds of orders considered in the early days of Trump's presidency, and unlikely to have ever reached the Oval Office for signature under any circumstances.
Another draft order under discussion, this one on "religious freedom," could effectively undermine the Obama protections by allowing Americans to opt out of such federal regulations on the grounds that they violate their religious beliefs.
"There's clearly a lot of evidence in the last couple of years of the government coming in with regulations and policies that have, frankly, denied people the ability to live according to their faith," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said February 2. "People should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal. And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way, in the name of political correctness."
The protections announced by former President Barack Obama forbade federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, the first explicit protection for federal workers against discrimination based on gender identity.