WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - In a break with his party's traditional stance on gay rights, Republican US President Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday (Jan 31) to uphold protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working for federal contractors.
The White House said in a statement that Trump, who took office this month, would continue to enforce an executive order signed in 2014 by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.
"The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP (Republican) nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression," the White House said.
The move puts Trump at odds with many of his fellow Republicans, who for the most part have fought civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender. Some conservatives have softened their positions in recent years, however, particularly towards gay marriage.
During his presidential campaign, Trump acknowledged gay rights and called on LGBT voters to cast their ballots for him.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organisation, said it remains to be seen how Trump will handle wider discrimination towards the community.
"Claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar," the group's president, Chad Griffin, said in a statement. "LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason. Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House."
The decision comes as Trump prepares to name his choice to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court left by the death last year of Antonin Scalia.
Trump's nominee, scheduled to be announced at 8pm ET on Tuesday (9am on Wednesday Singapore time), will likely influence the court on a number of issues including religious rights as well as gay and transgender rights.
In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, Trump indicated that the Supreme Court's ruling allowing gay marriage should stand.
Trump's pick for attorney-general, Republican US Senator Jeff Sessions, has pledged to enforce laws upheld by the Supreme Court, even those he disagreed with, such as decisions making abortion and same-sex marriage legal.