We no longer need to “wait and see” what President-elect Trump will do in regards to LGBT rights. For those who’ve been watching, the storm cloud over Washington has already turned dark and ominous. And Trump hasn’t even taken office yet.
As several media outlets around the world have noted, Trump’s suggested cabinet nominees are universally anti-LGBT. Literally every single person Trump has announced his intention to nominate to a cabinet position has a documented history opposing marriage equality, nondiscrimination protections, equal access for trans people, and, most frequently, supporting “religious liberty” laws that grant a wide-ranging “license to discriminate.” Even his transition team is stocked with right-wing activists already deeply familiar to those of us who have been covering the fight for LGBT equality over the past decade.
That fact, combined with the increasingly apparent influence of Vice President-elect Mike Pence in making staffing decisions for the administration, means we can’t afford to buy the oft-repeated claim that Trump is actually the most pro-LGBT Republican president in American history. (And to be clear, that’s not a particularly high bar to clear.)
Even so, I’ll admit that I don’t believe the president-elect gives much thought to LGBT Americans one way or another. I don’t think he outright disdains us—unlike many of the people advising him—and I know for a fact that he’s happy to accept our dirty queer money if we want to spend it on his hotels and resorts and mediocre meat-products. But even if Trump won’t be the origin of hateful legislation, the sense that he won’t be eager to protect us from such attacks stings—particularly coming on the heels of an administration that, while imperfect, did more to advance legal LGBT equality than any other in history.
Where Obama’s Justice and Education Departments made explicit their unprecedented support for equal access for transgender Americans, Trump’s pick for attorney general was literally too hateful to be a federal judge in the 1980s. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man who could be in charge of enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws, has consistently voted against every LGBT-inclusive bill brought before him in Congress, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act when it included protections for trans women. He also opposed updating federal hate crime laws to include LGBT people, opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage equality. Assuming that Sessions remains consistent in his opposition to our basic participation in society, our best hope in the coming legal landscape is to try desperately to hang on to the protections we’ve earned thus far. Any talk of expanding those protections is essentially off the table.
Sessions is also one of two Trump cabinet appointees who are co-sponsors of the odious First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which, if passed, would carve out a yuuuge religious exemption to the nation’s already weakened nondiscrimination laws. A sort of mutant offspring of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, FADA would provide carte-blanche cover for businesses, individuals, health care providers, and possibly even government officials to outright refuse service to LGBT people and certain women.
What kind of “certain women,” you ask? The kind who dare to become pregnant without being married to the person who impregnated them. (The bill has no exemptions for those who became pregnant as a result of rape, assault or incest.) As long as the person denying service cites a “sincerely held religious belief,” they are protected from “adverse government action.” As for the lesbian moms who have their sick child turned away by a “pious” doctor? Perhaps they should just follow Trump’s advice for those seeking safe abortions and “go to another state.”
Speaking of health care, Trump’s pick for secretary of Health and Human Services, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, voted with Sessions on almost every LGBT-inclusive bill that came before him too. That includes opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and voting two separate times to use the Constitution to block marriage equality. He’s got a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, and a measly 21 percent from the NAACP.
Aside from making good on the Republican holy grail quest to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” Price could revive an outdated tactic to oppose LGBT equality, as Salon explains. Just three years ago, on a phone call with faith leaders supporting the Tea Party movement, Price agreed that there are “consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm,” suggesting that increased health care costs for LGBT people are a result of some abnormal activity. (Yes, that’s code for anal sex. Or gender-affirming surgeries. Or marrying the person you love most in the world, if that person happens to have the same gender marker as you.)
Given that it took the president-elect more than three weeks—and upwards of 700 documented hate-crime incidents—to “denounce and reject” the hatred his scorched-earth campaign emboldened, I have zero confidence that Trump will follow through on his election-night promise to be “a President for all Americans.” That means it’s up to all Americans to stand up for their neighbors and friends, but especially the people of color, undocumented people, Muslims (and non-Christians in general) and queer folks that you don’t know.
Because right now, we are terrified. If you have the privilege of being able to “wait and see” how the Trump administration comes after your family (and unless your family donated millions to the Trump campaign, you can bet that eventually Trump’s policies will impact your way of life), please use that safety to speak out. Call your representatives now, and again in January, and every time the incoming administration tries to trample the progress we’ve made over the past eight years. Take to the streets for those who cannot, and, perhaps most crucially, talk to the white people and Trump supporters in your life about why they voted for him, and what they hope will come of his election. Then point out the evidence—that’s piling up already—suggesting they’ve been duped by a con-man who just last week admitted that he didn’t think anyone would take his pledge to “keep jobs in America” seriously.
Call 1-844-USA-0234 and enter your zip code to be connected with your representatives in Washington. Tell them why you oppose each nominee, and keep calling. Ask your friends and neighbors to do the same. Use the liberal bubble so many of us reside in as a safe space to demand action.
Your freedom, and our future, depends on it.