Statements made and policies set by Trump and his administration have undermined the rights and beliefs of LGBTQ Americans despite his campaign promises to “fight” for them.
During his presidential campaign, Trump tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
Last summer on the campaign trail, Trump spoke about the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack in Florida that claimed 49 lives. He said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
A year later, Trump did not mention the LGBTQ community when he tweeted about the shooting anniversary. “We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay,” he tweeted on June 14, 2017.
One may overlook the slight if it were not for more profound actions targeting LGBTQ rights, access to health care and workplace protections. His administration has taken sweeping steps to revoke legal protections for LGBTQ Americans. For the record, this is a trail of Trump’s hostile actions against LGBTQ Americans:
VP Mike Pence
Pence showed support for conversion therapy although he denies it. A statement on his campaign site in 2000 read, “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
In a speech on the House floor in 2006, Pence, in urging support for the anti-gay Marriage Protection Act, warned that same-sex marriage would lead to the “deterioration of the family” and, ultimately, complete and utter “societal collapse.”
Pence has spoken out against giving LGBTQ people federal protections in hate crimes legislation, and literally called enhanced penalties and increased investigations of hate-based crimes against queer people “a radical social agenda.”
Pence opposed banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace because, he claimed, it discriminates against Christians.
As Indiana governor, Pence signed a “religious liberty” bill into law that would create exemptions for hiring or serving LGBT people in businesses, based on the employers’ or business owners’ religious beliefs.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Sessions attempted to end an Obama-era policy protecting transgender employees from discrimination. In a memo regarding the Title VII protections of the Civil Rights Act, he stated, “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
Sessions’ Justice Department filed a brief asking for a federal court in Washington, D.C., to drop a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban on transgender military service.
Further, under his watch, the department has taken away Obama programs allowing states to determine their transgender rights and issuing guidance to schools for transgender bathroom use.
Sessions also filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing religious objections.
Trump’s administration rescinded guidance put forth by the Department of Justice and Department of Education that defended the rights of transgender students to safely use bathrooms at schools that correspond to their gender identity. The Obama-era protection the Trump administration nullified made LGBTQ youth more vulnerable at school. According to a 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 34% of LGBTQ students said they were bullied at school, and LGBTQ students have a much higher propensity for suicidal ideation and skipping school, often for safety reasons, compared to their straight peers. Despite the precarious situation LGBTQ youth still find themselves in, the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines that gave transgender students the right to use public school bathrooms that matched their gender identities.
Members of the Trump administration, including attorney general Jeff Sessions, Education secretary Betsy DeVos, referred to the move as defending “state’s rights.” Since then, several advocacy organizations such as the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Education Association collaborated on a study to gauge what effect the repeal had on 150,000 transgender students nationwide. The survey found 70% of transgender students have gone out of their way to avoid using campus bathrooms, sometimes causing health issues like urinary tract infections and kidney problems. Many of them said they avoided eating and drinking during the day so they wouldn’t have to use the bathroom.
As public schools become less safe for queer students, private schools aren’t doing much better. DeVos refused to commit to cutting federal funds for private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students, even when she was directly asked about the issue in a June Senate hearing.
Halted Department of Health and Human Services efforts to collect data on elderly LGBT people seen by critics as part of a broad effort to erase LGBT needs and concerns from the government’s consideration. “This was a stealth effort to strip LGBT[Q] elders out of the survey without anybody noticing,” said Michael Adams, CEO of Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders.
Trump’s administration attempted to roll back healthcare access and proposed to curtail Medicaid coverage for people living with HIV.
The GOP healthcare plan will also put vulnerable LGBTQ communities at risk by slashing budgets for programs that disproportionately impact queer people, like affordable HIV testing at Planned Parenthood clinics and Medicaid provisions for HIV treatment. According to a 2014 Gallup study, around 25% of LGBTQ people struggled to afford healthcare.
Trump ignored Pride month traditions completely. The Pentagon did not issue routine materials for LGBTQ Pride in 2017 the way it did for Women’s History Month and Black History Month.
Trump declined to recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month as past presidents have done in recent years. “We are deeply disappointed to see that President Trump has not followed the tradition of issuing an LGBT[Q] Pride Month Proclamation for 2017,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association. “After decades of discrimination, today, LGBT[Q] service members proudly serve our nation openly — many with spouses and families proudly standing by their side.”
The White House did not do a single thing in 2017 to acknowledge Pride month, and reportedly ignored requests for an explanation regarding this break in tradition. Although the White House was uncharacteristically silent about LGBTQ issues in June, Trump did speak about protecting “family values” and defending “religious liberty” at the Road to Majority conference by the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
LGBTQ Nation called the event an “extremist” gathering hosted by “homophobic” groups. Trump praised evangelical leader James Dobson, who has called the movement for gay rights a “second civil war” and wrote a column suggesting it would be manly for people to take up arms against transgender women using public restrooms.
National AIDS Policy Office
Took down the White House’s web page on the Office of National AIDS Policy. Failed to name anyone to head the office.
Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) announced their resignations explaining how the Trump administration was pushing policies that would be harmful to individuals with HIV and AIDS. PACHA, started in 1995, was a group of experts and advocates that has worked with the president to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Trump fired the remaining members of the council.
Appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In the first LGBTQ-related case since taking his seat, the Court ruled that Arkansas may not refuse to name same-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates. Gorsuch wrote the dissent.
Issued a memo to the Justice Department saying that courts would no longer recognize Title VII as protecting transgender individuals against workplace discrimination: “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
(In February 2018, in a 10-3 ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that equality under the law extends to sexual orientation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “We now conclude that sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination,” Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann said, writing for the majority opinion. The decision could set the stage for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question once and for all.)
Filed briefs to the Supreme Court justifying discrimination against LGBTQ people by allowing business and service providers to claim “sincerely held religious beliefs” to withhold “any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges” from same-sex couples.
Transgenders in the Military
Publicly said that transgenders could no longer serve in the military due to “costs and disruption” and then issuing a directive to the Department of Defense to implement such an order.
Even some of the groups Trump is often outspoken about supporting, like military veterans and servicemen, are impacted by the administration’s unspoken stance against the LGBTQ community. Some military leaders are now looking to roll back an Obama-era initiative that lifted the ban on enlisting transgender troops. Deputy Defense secretary Robert Work, who serves under Trump’s Defense secretary Gen. James Mattis, issued a memo in May about integrating transgender troops. The memo’s language offered a loophole for departments to back out of protective provisions by questioning if the relatively new policy would hinder readiness for combat.
Meanwhile, Trump blocked @VoteVets, a pro-LGBTQ nonprofit veteran advocacy group, on Twitter.
Signed an executive order that rescinded an Obama-era rule that companies have to prove they treat LGBT employees fairly.
The Trump administration has rolled back several layers of workplace protection LGBTQ people used to have. For starters, Trump issued an executive order in March that repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, made by former president Obama in 2014. It required federal contractors to provide documented proof of compliance with federal laws, including prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In January, the White House had specifically promised not to revoke this order.
When Trump signed the GOP tax bill into law on December 22, the LGBT community took another hit. The bill will cut funding for social programs including healthcare, food stamps, housing, and homeless support efforts.
“This bill is a disaster for everyone really, but specifically for LGBT [people],” senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Christopher Stoll, told Newsweek in December. “It will result in deep cuts in programs that LGBT people depend on.”
Voted against a United Nations’ Human Rights Council resolution that bans the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations.
World AIDS Day
On December 1, World AIDS Day, Trump again snubbed the LGBTQ community by ignoring them in a White House statement. While he focused his support on women and girls in African countries who suffer from the deadly virus, offering “prayers” for those living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. In the meantime, the Human Rights Campaign data show that 55% of about 1.2 million Americans living with HIV in the United States are gay men.
Trump has also appointed several officials with a history of working against gay rights, recruiting from a pool of the most vehemently anti-LGBTQ personalities.
Jeff Sessions has a known history of hindering civil rights. He tried to ban an LGBTQ conference in Alabama long before he became Trump’s pick for attorney general.
Ben Carson, head of Housing and Urban Development., said he didn’t believe in “extra rights” regarding LGBT housing discrimination. Carson has also compared being gay to pedophilia and beastiality.
Eric Dreiband, heads the Justice Department’s civil rights division, even though he has a history of defending corporations against discrimination lawsuits. He has built his legal career by defending corporate civil right abuses.
Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, was a vocal opponent of gay rights as a congressman. (Price resigned in September 2017 amid scandal over using more than $500,000 in taxpayer dollars for private jets.)
Roger Severino, head of the Department of Health and Human Services civil rights division, co-authored a report that argues that rules prohibiting the “differential treatment” of transgender people in health services would “penalize medical professionals and health care organizations that, as a matter of faith, moral conviction, or professional medical judgment, believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases.” He also wrote an opinion piece for The Daily Signal in which he hailed North Carolina’s controversial transgender bathroom bill as “commonsense” policy and criticized HHS’ proposal to broaden discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination that results from so-called gender stereotypes, or the idea that gender is comprised only of male and female. “The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom,” Severino wrote.
James Renne, began as part of the transition team, then transferred to a senior role at the Department of Agriculture. Renne “purged gay employees” from the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency. A legal investigation published in 2013 proved that Renne’s campaign of workplace discrimination may have been motivated by a “negative personal attitude towards homosexuality.”
Bethany Kozma, senior advisor to the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development, wrote a column about her instrumental role in pushing the Trump administration to repeal the guideline that protected transgender students in public school bathrooms.
On the world stage, Trump and his administration are viewed with less confidence by 35 out of 37 countries. The Pew Global Attitudes Project found “a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs.” (By contrast, “a median of 64% expressed confidence” in Obama.)
According to the nonpartisan watchdog Freedom House, 2017 marked the most serious crisis for international human rights and democracy in decades due in large part to the Trump Administration’s failure to maintain the United States’ long held international status “as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy.” Trump has attacked core institutions by rejecting “established norms of ethical conduct across many fields of activity.”
From the reversal of the 2016 guidance allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity to Trump’s attempts to ban transgender people from serving in the military, Trump and his administration have made explicit—in both words and actions—their intention to cast off principles that have guided U.S. policy and formed the basis for American leadership on the world stage.
Despite Trump’s campaign promise to protect LGBTQ Americans from “hateful foreign ideology,” it appears some of the greatest risks to the freedoms they enjoy are right here at home.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, October 2016
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
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