Hundreds Of Religious Leaders Sign Letter Urging Trump To Preserve LGBT Equality

“The path to national unity lies in affirming the full equality and potential of every person."

Hundreds of faith leaders from around the United States have signed a letter imploring President Donald Trump to maintain federal protections for LGBT workers.

The letter surfaced as a draft of a proposed executive order on "religious freedom" began to circulate this week. If signed, it would grant exemptions for businesses and individuals to discriminate against the LGBT community on religious grounds, undoing protections set in place by President Obama in 2014.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House surrounded by small business leaders January 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump said he will ÒdramaticallyÓ reduce regulations overall with this executive action as it requires that for every new federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded. (Photo by Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images)

"In our democratic nation, public service—particularly when it is directly funded by the federal government—must be aligned with the constitutional principle that all people receive equal treatment under the law," the letter signed by more than 400 pastors, imams, rabbis and seminary presidents reads.

"Requiring those who receive public funding to adhere to non-discriminatory hiring practices not only abides by this principle, but also it is the right thing to do. Beyond that, it protects our laws from confusion and abuse. If contractors and others were allowed to opt out of certain laws, depending on their religious beliefs, we would soon see a morass of legal confusion and dispute."

"Federal policies that allow for discrimination against LGBT people violate basic human rights and dignity, as well as the belief shared by millions of Americans—that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens," the letter concludes. "We believe that the path to national unity lies in affirming the full equality and potential of every person. In the spirit of equality, fairness, and justice, we urge you not to add a discriminatory religious exemption to the Executive Order or to other federal policies."

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Though the religious leaders acknowledge that their concerns were briefly alleviated when Trump released a statement saying Obama's protections would "remain intact," they say they were moved to action when it became clear that the President could alter the protections without altogether getting rid of them.

"The White House's statement did not assuage our concerns, nor did it address the concerns at the heart of the letter," associate director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative of the Center for American Progress Claire Markham told NBC News.

"Adding an exemption would technically leave the order in place but would render it unenforceable by the federal government," Markham added. "We can't ignore those intentions because the White House issued a statement."

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