A signer of a letter asking President Barack Obama to exempt faith groups from his upcoming executive order protecting the rights of LGBT people is now reversing her position, apologizing to her constituents and asking for her name to be removed from the letter.
Kathy Dahlkemper, a former member of congress and now a county executive for Erie County in Pennsylvania, rescinded her previous support for a letter sent to the White House on July 1 that encouraged the president to allow faith groups to opt out of an forthcoming executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people in hiring. The letter drew widespread attention after it was released, primarily because, unlike similar letters that were mostly signed by religious conservatives, some of the 14 faith leaders who signed the July 1 letter had worked closely with the administration in the past.
But in a statement addressed to citizens of her county, Dahlkemper — who says her son, Nathan, is openly gay — apologized to the LGBT community and referred to her decision to sign the letter “an error in judgment.”
“I would like to let you know that I made an error in judgment when I signed the letter to President Obama regarding his expected Executive Order addressing federal contractors and LGBT employment policies,” Dahlkemper writes. “I have requested that my name be withdrawn from this letter. For those I have offended, I apologize.”
There has been significant pushback against the July 1 letter since it was made public. Last week, a group of more than 100 clergy, seminary presidents, faith-based advocates, and denomination heads sent their own letter to the president asking him not to include exemptions in his executive order, saying “we believe that public dollars should not be used to sanction discrimination.” A similar online petition created by Faithful America, a progressive Christian advocacy organization, has accrued more than 30,000 signatures since it was posted last week.
Another signer of the letter, Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay, has also faced a backlash for endorsing exemptions that would allow religious groups to discriminate against LGBT people. Since news of the letter broke, thousands of students and alumni of the Wenham, Massachusetts-based school have signed an online petition decrying the letter, and the college has had their access to the town hall in nearby Salem ended by local officials. Gordon College’s accreditation is also now at risk of being reexamined by the body that accredits colleges and universities in New England.