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SPLC seeks records of extremist influence in White House policies

The SPLC has asked the federal government to release records that could show whether anti-LGBT extremists are influencing the Trump administration's policy decisions, including a yet-to-be signed executive order that threatens widespread discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of religious freedom. 

The SPLC submitted Freedom of Information Act records requests regarding the draft executive order and the administration’s decision to withdraw guidance advising schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. The requests ask for “any and all records received from or sent to persons outside [various] Departments” regarding the actions. 

“The lives of real people are affected every day by decisions made by the president and his inner circle,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “The American people have a right to know who is helping to craft policy coming out of the White House – especially if people or organizations with extreme views have a place at the table.” 

One of the records requests describes possible extremist influence behind the unsigned executive order leaked to the press in February. The sweeping order would severely diminish federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people by allowing people and organizations to opt out if compliance violates their religious beliefs. 

The request notes that Kenneth A. Klukowski reportedly helped structure the draft order while serving as a legal adviser to the Trump transition team. Klukowski is the former director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC is an anti-LGBT hate group. 

Klukowski is also drafting a revised version of the order, according to a media report. He is legal editor at Breitbart News Network – the online news site that serves as the platform for the “alt-right,” a term that is a rebranding of white nationalism. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, served as chief executive of Breitbart. 
John Kenneth “Ken” Blackwell, a Trump transition team official, was quoted in a media report regarding Klukowski’s role. Blackwell served as senior fellow at the FRC. The SPLC request also notes that the Liberty Counsel, another anti-LGBT hate group, has claimed it has contacts within the Trump administration and has been asked to rally support for the order.

The other records request describes how it’s in the public interest to know if extremists influenced the administration’s decision to withdraw guidance advising schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity. It notes that Trump administration’s action has already resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s declining to hear a case involving a transgender boy seeking to use the boys’ restroom at his high school – a case that could have resulted in major gains for transgender rights. 

The administration’s decision to withdraw the guidance also signals to the country that the Department of Education and the Justice Department are no longer willing to defend or enforce protections for transgender individuals despite the protections afforded to them under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, according to the request.