WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence defended on Sunday President Donald Trump’s decision to retain an Obama-era order banning groups that contract with the federal government from “discriminating” against homosexuals and transgenders in their business or non-profit organization.
“I think throughout the campaign, President Trump made it clear that discrimination would have no place in our administration,” Pence said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” according to a transcript of the discussion. “He was the very first Republican nominee to mention the LGBTQ community at our Republican National Convention and was applauded for it. And I was there applauding with him.”
“I think the generosity of his spirit, recognizing that in the patriot’s heart, there’s no room for prejudice is part of who this president is,” he stated.
He had been asked by interviewer George Stephanopoulos about concerns from conservative groups, which wondered “why Obama’s executive order is allowed to stand.”
As previously reported, last Tuesday, the Trump administration advised that it would keep intact Obama’s order, #13672, which amended a 1969 order by then-President Richard Nixon prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap and age,” as well as a 1998 order from then-President Bill Clinton adding “sexual orientation” to the list.
Obama added “gender identity” to Clinton’s “sexual orientation” language.
“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. “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 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,” it outlined.
However, reports last week surfaced that Trump might also issue an order protecting religious freedom. Pence was asked about the matter on Sunday, but was not clear on whether an order is in the works as he solely pointed to Trump’s intent to discard the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and non-profit organizations from speaking for or against political candidates under risk of losing their tax exempt status.
“Do think a new executive order is necessary on religious liberty?” Stephanopolous asked. “Or is current law sufficient?”
“Well, the president’s made it clear that he wants to take action on the Johnson Amendment,” Pence replied. “The president provided real leadership in the campaign where he identified the Johnson amendment and he told people of faith of every background across this country that he would work to repeal it. And he’s directed the administration to begin to look at ways, both legislatively and through executive action to do that…”
“But no executive orders beyond that, beyond fixing the Johnson Amendment, in your view?” Stephanopolous pressed.
“Well, I think that’ll be the purview of the president to determine whether any of that’s necessary,” Pence replied. “But I will tell you for our part: The focus of this administration will continue to be to have a safer America, to have a more prosperous America, and to continue to advance the president’s agenda, both on Capitol Hill and through executive action and carry that message all across the country.”