President’s Response to Religious Freedom Executive Order and House Passage of AHCA

Published: May 4, 2017
Author(s): Ben Francisco Maulbeck
Dear Colleagues,

Today was a difficult day for all of us who believe that healthcare and reproductive freedom are basic human rights. President Trump signed an executive order relaxing restrictions on political activities by religious organizations and allowing for the denial of women’s contraception under the guise of “religious freedom.” Shortly after the order was signed, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), effectively moving to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would leave millions of Americans unable to access basic health care.

The Trump Administration and Congress are sending a message to large swaths of Americans that they are not deserving of dignity or healthcare. This latest executive order is just one in a series that discriminates against vulnerable communities such as Muslims, refugees, and undocumented immigrants.

Due to vocal opposition from LGBTQ and allied movements, today’s executive order did not explicitly name LGBTQ communities. Nevertheless, in the name of “religious freedom,” it allows employers to refuse to cover women’s contraception. It also gives broad discretion to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to protect “religious liberty,” language that Sessions and others have in the past used to justify turning away same-sex couples and transgender people.

The House of Representatives continued this assault on human rights when it passed the AHCA, which would effectively repeal the ACA and leave millions of Americans without health insurance or access to affordable healthcare. We know that access to healthcare is particularly vital for LGBTQ people. Building on the many important provisions of the ACA, many of our members have funded work to increase LGBTQ communities’ access to care over the past decade. Our members have funded targeted outreach programs to enroll uninsured LGBTQ people in new healthcare options and supported state and federal advocacy efforts to assure that transgender people are fully covered. Before the ACA went into effect, more than one in three LGBTQ Americans earning under $45,000 were uninsured. As of March of this year, that number has been reduced to one in five.

In the coming weeks we will be hosting two funder telebriefings: one focused on the impact that ACA repeal would have on LGBTQ communities and another focused on the ongoing efforts to use religious exemptions as a smokescreen for discrimination.  More information on these calls will be forthcoming shortly.

Make no mistake, today we saw two major setbacks for LGBTQ rights and for social change. These are challenging times for our community, and I know that philanthropy has the power and the potential to work for a world where our policies are driven by dignity and compassion for all. Together we can support the rising movements to defend the rights of LGBTQ people and all vulnerable communities.

Take Care,
Ben Francisco Maulbeck
President, Funders for LGBTQ Issues