Donald Trump’s administration has pledged to retain LGBT protections implemented by former President Barack Obama, despite claims during his campaign he would repeal “a lot of” the previous administration’s actions.
In a statement from the White House, the President pledged to “protect the community from violence and oppression”.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement read.
“The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
The clarification came after Mr Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said he didn’t know whether the new President would rescind LGBT rights.
When questioned over the issue during a White House briefing, he said: “I just don’t know the answer.”
Mr Trump’s alleged backing of the order will be likely to anger conservative Republicans hoping to put an end to more socially liberal policies.
It has done little, however, to reassure LGBTQ campaigners.
Mark Snyder, director of communications for the Equality Federation, told reporters that they were “unimpressed and will remain vigilant in case of repeal under the guise of religious freedom”.
“Trump’s actions against refugees and immigrants also impact LGBTQ people, putting some families in very dangerous situations,” he said.
“We stand in firm solidarity with every community Trump, his team, and his nominees are targeting,” he continued. “He has surrounded himself with people who have long records of opposing fairness and equality for LGBTQ Americans and our families as well as opposing the civil liberties that most of us consider to represent the core values of our nation.”
Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, said Mr Trump had set a low bar by merely agreeing to protect protections that already exist.
“LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason,” he said.
“Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House. Donald Trump has left the key question unanswered – will he commit to opposing any executive actions that allow government employees, taxpayer-funded organisations or even companies to discriminate?”
Mr Griffin added that Mr Trump has filled his cabinet with people who “have spent their careers working to demonise [LGBTQ people] and limit [their] rights”.
“You can’t claim to be an ally when you send LGBTQ refugees back to countries where their lives are at risk. You can’t claim support them and then rip away life-saving services made possible through the Affordable Care Act for transgender people and those living with HIV or AIDS. You can’t be a friend to this community and appoint people to run the government who compare being gay to bestiality.”
Many had feared the new President would make a sharp break from the protections afforded by the Obama administration, exacerbated by Vice President Mike Pence’s track record on LGBTQ rights.
As the Governor of Indiana, Mr Pence signed a religious liberties bill that gay rights groups said would legitimise and legalise discrimination.
Within hours of Mr Trump being sworn into the nation’s highest office, the White House website took down its page on LGBTQ rights and its apology for discrimination dating back decades, and also removed pages on civil rights and climate change.
Incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that legalising same-sex marriage was an “effort to secularise, by force and intimidation”.
President Obama’s 2014 order banned companies doing business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The move applied to an estimated 24,000 companies that collectively employed 28 million workers – accounting for a fifth of America’s workforce.
The Human Rights Campaign found that many states are nonethless ramping up their efforts to fight LGBT protections. There have been some pro-LGBT victories in recent months, for example, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory conceding defeat in his re-election bid after signing a house bill which champions discrimination, and Vermont and New York banning “conversion therapy” for gay youths.
Last year, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in states around the US.
Many were defeated, but North Carolina and Mississippi did adopt discriminatory bills. More than 111 million people still live in states which do not have LGBTQ protections in the workplace.
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