Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has a message for President Donald Trump regarding reports that the administration plans to issue a sweeping executive order on religious freedom that would allow discrimination against the LGBT community: “We’re watching.”
The New York Democrat, one of the few openly gay members of Congress, has been a champion for LGBT protections. Last year he led the charge in the House to block GOP attempts that targeted Obama-era regulations protecting LGBT.
The Trump administration announced this week the president plans to uphold Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors from making hiring decisions based on sexuality or gender identity.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the White House said in a statement, noting that Trump “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.”
Maloney said it is “great” that Trump plans to uphold Obama’s executive order but the “real test” will be whether he follows through with the rumored religious freedom executive order. Such action would make Trump “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he added.
“Are you going to be taking away with one hand what you pretend to be leaving in place with the other?” Maloney said.
If Trump does issue an executive order that attacks LGBT rights, Maloney said he plans to issue legislation to block it like he did with his amendment last year, which helped sink a key spending bill.
“We’ll be asking the people who voted for it to join us, and they’ll have to decide where they’ll stand,” he said.
“We are not taking any actions on this issue at this time,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email, appearing to leave open the door that such an order could come down the road.
When the House first voted on the Maloney amendment last year, 43 Republicans voted to support it. Its addition to the Energy and Water Appropriations measure led many Republicans to vote against the underlying measure, leading to its defeat.
Maloney offered the amendment again on another appropriations measure, but GOP leaders convinced enough GOP supporters of the provision to vote no and defeat it.
The fight led to the GOP’s decision to move to a structured rule for traditionally open rule appropriations measures, so they could limit amendments. That in turn ended Democrats’ cooperation on the spending measures. As a result, the appropriations process ground to a halt and Republicans fell well short of their goal to move all 12 appropriations bills through the House.
While for now Maloney is only talking about issuing standalone legislation, it’s likely he’d use the amendment process or other legislative maneuvers to make his point if need. But since Trump has not acted yet, Maloney is holding his fire.
“In fairness to him, he’s left the orders in the place,” Maloney said, but cautioned, “The proof is in the pudding.”
John T. Bennett contributed to this story