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COLUMN: LGBTQ rights at stake in United States

REFOCUS by Gerard Veldhoven

The United States is digging deeper into chaos regarding the rights and protection of its LGBTQ citizens. President Donald Trump, in his dictatorial manner, had pledged his total support to evangelical and other right-wing religious organizations, in the process taking away rights from the LGBTQ folks.

As has been previously mentioned and on many occasions, religious beliefs “trump” equal rights and in this instance Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered guidelines to be implemented that are meant to stifle equality and promote the idea that U.S. society has the right to discriminate at will on the grounds of religious beliefs. Protection for religious leaders and all others who profess that sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are merely societal wrongdoings will further stall the work towards equality. Religious beliefs are protected, but human rights are indeed thrown to the wind.

A Christian-based law firm in the U.S., the Alliance Defending Freedom, told the press that this is “a great day for religious freedom.” In turn, The Human Rights Campaign, an American LGBTQ-rights organization calls this “an all-out assault on civil rights and a sweeping licence to discriminate.”

The consequences of this action by the Trump administration have the potential for a crack-down on human rights, which will surely be contested in the courts. As is the case in Canada, Christian places of learning require employees and students to follow the moral codes set forth in regulations and guidelines. Sex outside marriage and same-sex activity are banned. This is so at Cranston University in Moncton, N.B., and Trinity Western University in B.C. It is a travesty that human rights are completely ignored and the courts agree with these institutions.

The United States has an administration that harvests hate and intolerance, this in a nation that proudly flies a banner that they are the best country in the world. Donald Trump and his discriminating cronies are determined to govern with an iron fist. The United States of America, the land of Lincoln, a patriotic song that bears the words, “America the Beautiful,” yet indicates a copy of such countries as Uganda, Russia and many eastern nations. The U.S. where guns are fired daily, causing deaths and grief for so many, a country that certainly has lost credibility in being a giant among nations and where equal rights for all is but a dream.

The rulers south of our border could certainly take a page from Canada’s tapestry where at least we attempt to recognize the differences in backgrounds, fight for acceptance, where all are equal before the law – features obviously ignored in the U.S. That is not to say that Canada is void of intolerance and hate, but we do try to solve the issues in a civilized manner.

The manner of Donald Trump is of great concern, not only for the LGBTQ community, but for those whose sexual orientation and gender identity are squashed in other nations, especially in the Far East and Africa. LGBTQ rights are non-existent. Trump will be model for leaders there who are clamping down on rights, believing they are correct in their discrimination.

The fact all humankind deserves equality is a non-issue for the Trump administration and that is great cause for concern. Sessions and his religious right have no concern for human rights.

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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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