clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

After considering reversal, Trump says he will keep federal LGBTQ protections intact

That said, the administration could still add provisions that hinder the rule to bar discrimination.

President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Also pictured, from left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, and
Look at this diverse bunch trying to figure out how to piss off Silicon Valley more.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

This post has been updated.

Calling Peter Thiel.

Well, maybe not, as it turns out, since the influence of the Silicon Valley investor — a “proud” gay man — on the Trump administration seems almost nil at this point, as the White House considers rolling out more executive orders that strike at some key issues that the tech industry has championed.

After its appalling immigration ban aimed directly at seven Muslim countries — which seems to have woken up tech leaders at companies from Google to Microsoft to Amazon to Facebook to, um, just about everyone who can program an appmultiple sources said that next on Trump’s hit list are a series of protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. They were put in place by the Obama administration, and have been irking some conservatives ever since.

“It’s bad,” said one tech player who has been read the draft of the order, which is being considered by Trump and debated by his staff.

Right now, it includes the possibility of overturning a directive that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal workforce and with those who contract with the government.

(Update: On Tuesday, Trump said he will keep intact a 2014 executive order directing federal contractors not to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Sources said, after much infighting inside the White House on the issue, Trump decided to table the order after reaction to the consideration looked like it might create another firestorm of controversy.

That said, the issue could return, as he could still add provisions that limit the directive. As noted by Politico: “The statement, however, does not address whether Trump will issue executive orders repealing other LGBTQ protections or add new religious-freedom provisions that could impact the ability of LGBTQ people to receive government services.” In addition, there will be legislation in Congress to do the same thing as the considered order that is likely to pass; Trump could simply sign that into law. In other words, it’s not over yet, techies.)

That might mean anything, such as a federal employee refusing to serve a gay person due to a religious objection. (Is my postman going to refuse to deliver my mail? Thankfully no, since I live in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, which I like to call “alternative facts to Trump’s America.”)

Sound familiar? That’s because our new vice president, Mike Pence, shoved through this same kind of awful law when he was governor of Indiana, essentially trying to legalize discrimination against gays by arguing that religious liberties were paramount.

And that’s where Pence ran smack into the buzzsaw of tech, which took extreme exception to the “religious freedom” measure he signed in 2015 and fought back with fervor. That included threats of boycotts, pulling of investments and high-profile statements by Apple CEO Tim Cook and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

“Apple is open for everyone,” said Cook — probably the most prominent gay executive in the world — in a tweet. “We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law.”

In an interview in mid-2016, Benioff was still pissed at Pence, who had just been named as Trump’s running mate. “The people need to take a stand. If you don’t take a stand, then I will tell you, there are a lot of people in this country, Mike Pence and others, who are going to do some very bad things to the people that we love.”

Um, yes, Marc. Like now.

It will be interesting to see how tech — so vocal when the same topics were confined to places like Indiana and North Carolina — will react if it Trump decides to impose those same discriminatory policies nationwide. It’s easy to boycott a state you don’t do much business in, and hard to take action against your home country.

Tech has already been speaking out against Trump’s moves over the immigration order, after a month of silence and even a photo op of a meeting with the then-president elect. Top execs, including Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, had been lured there by Thiel to work with Trump. He even got Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to serve on an advisory committee to help the new administration.

Why trust a man who had smacked hard and inaccurately at tech all through his presidential campaign? Thiel had claimed earlier in a speech that Trump should be taken “seriously” but not “literally.”

Seriously, Peter, you were literally wrong. (As for tech, I won’t say I told you so ... well, okay, I will!)

Tech execs are also nervous about another directive that Trumpkins are working on: An overhaul of the work-visa programs that the tech industry relies on to recruit talent from other countries.

Bloomberg reported on the possible executive order, and it looks problematic for tech at first glance:

“Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest,” the draft proposal reads, according to a copy reviewed by Bloomberg. “Visa programs for foreign workers ... should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold.”

So far, these executive orders are not helping tech or making its vast and important workforce happy, either. From protests at Google today to a forest of declarations by tech companies to the immigration ban to, well, a collective nervous breakdown by those who now live in the hellscape that is Twitter, it’s not pretty out there for the digerati.

Which brings me to the next Supreme Court pick, which is set to be announced tomorrow night in a big reveal by Trump. No, really — a big reveal. Trump said he would tell all in primetime on Tuesday.

According to many reports, the next Supreme Court justice is likely to be anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-future ... oh wait, that last part is just my opinion. We’ll wait and see, and also watch what both Kalanick and Musk will say to Trump at the next advisory meeting on Friday.

Both have asked for suggestions on social media and said they plan to address the immigration mess with him. But considering the pace Trump is setting, their list of tech complaints could be a lot longer by then.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.