On the same day President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the United States military, and the Department of Justice said that sexual orientation is not a basis to protect someone from discrimination in the workplace, the administration had one more blow to make to the LGBT community.
Trump on Wednesday nominated Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, the country’s second least popular governor according to Morning Consult (just behind Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey), as the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
Brownback tweeted regarding the news on Wednesday evening.
Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause. -SDB
Sam Brownback (@govsambrownback) July 27, 2017
In his role, Brownback would head the Office of International Religious Freedom. According to the U.S. Department of State’s website, “The Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. We monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.”
In line with Wednesday’s theme, Brownback has an anti-LGBT history of his own. Described by LGBTQ Nation as “One of the most anti-LGBT politicians,” Brownback in March 2016 signedSenate Bill 175, which allows student associations at colleges to discriminate freely assuming the discrimination “compl[ies] with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.” Student groups who discriminate against students can not face penalty from the university, even if they go against the school’s own discrimination policy.
Brownback signed the bill during what appeared to be a momentous occasion, accompanied by conservative lawmakers, activists and groups. He expressed his pleasure that students can now “enjoy this bedrock American principle.”
“Religious liberty is part of the essence of who we are as a nation and as a state,” he said. “At our founding, people coming to the United States came here seeking religious liberty. I’m pleased to sign SB 175 today, the Campus Religious Freedom Bill, ensuring that college students can also enjoy this bedrock American principle.”
Additionally, Brownback in 2015 rescinded protections for LGBT people in the workplace on the state level. The executive order he reversed had been in place since 2007.
“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said at the time.
According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), less than half of states have non-discrimination employment laws that cover sexual identity and gender identity.
As far as the rest of anti-LGBT day, Trump kicked off Wednesday with a series of tweets in which he announced that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the United States military. Transgender people in the military would cause “too much disruption” along with “tremendous medical costs,” according to Trump.
ARANDstudy conducted in 2016 estimated that there are anywhere between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people actively serving. Costs for transition-related health care would be minuscule within the active component’s health-care budget, totaling “between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.” Even when estimating on the higher end, it would only be about 0.1 percent. Department of Defense’s health care expenditures in 2014 were $49.3 billion, CNN reported.
Also on Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding workplace discrimination and LGBT people.
“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the brief states. “It does not, as has been settled for decades.”
Activists weighed in on all of the anti-LGBT events that took place on Wednesday.
James D. Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) LGBT & HIV Project, dubbed the day anti-LGBT day.
“Whether coordinated or not, to have it all happen on the same day certainly brings into focus the profoundly anti-L.G.B.T. agenda of this administration,” Esseks said in a statement.
“Yesterday, he went after everyone with a direct assault. He truly declared war on our community,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “I promise you, this is a battle we are going to win.”