5 things Trump did in his first week to make us fear for LGBT rights

5 things Trump did in his first week to make us fear for LGBT rights
Photo: DonkeyHotey

Trump might not sound like a typical religious wingnut. He might have (actual) gay friends. But he showed this week that he will attempt to dismantle as many LGBT rights and protections as he can.

If it wasn’t totally obvious from his history of homophobic and transphobic remarks and his promises on policy during the campaign, he’s sending as strong of a signal as he can that he will do whatever he can to roll back LGBT rights now that he’s president.

Here are five things that happened in his first week in office that show that he opposes LGBT rights.

5. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he didn’t know if Trump would overturn Obama’s bans on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination

What happened: Trump has made overturning Barack Obama’s executive orders one of his main campaign promises. The Press Secretary was asked if that included Obama’s executive orders that banned discrimination against LGBT people in the federal workforce and federal contractors, and he said he didn’t know.

Why this is a bad sign: The only correct answer to “Do you plan to allow discrimination in your workforce?” is “No.” Spicer couldn’t say that.

If this happened because of a lack of preparation – Trump has had plenty of time to decide which executive orders he wants to repeal – expect the worst. Trump has already shown that on issues that aren’t important to him he’s just going to implement policies that please the far-right.

4. Trump’s Attorney General nominee seems really excited to let people use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people

What happened: In confirmation hearings this week, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions talked about the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a bill that Trump promised to sign that would allow people to discriminate against LGBT people if they claim they’re doing it for religious reasons. Sessions brought up an example of private colleges denying LGBT employees and students equal rights as a sign that the FADA is needed, saying that requiring institutions that receive federal money to follow federal law is “discriminatory” on the basis of religion.

In response to a separate question about his opposition to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) in 2013, which included a ban on discrimination against LGBT homeless youth in services paid for by the government, Sessions said the protections would have “discriminated against faith-based organizations.”

Why this is a bad sign: Sessions, of course, doesn’t much care about freedom of religion. He defended Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration in 2015, and even this week said that he wanted an immigrant’s religion to be a factor in the vetting process.

What he cares about is one religion’s freedom to impose its beliefs on other people. Sessions’s examples of “religious freedom” were about institutions that receive federal money being able to discriminate against LGBT people, even though federal funds are limited (especially for homeless youth) and no one is forcing religious organizations to take the money.

Sessions will have a lot of power to direct government resources when it comes to actually enforcing anti-discrimination rules. He appears much more excited to find creative ways to use those resources to promote discrimination.

3. Trump brought back the global gag rule (but more bigly this time)

What happened: Trump signed a presidential memorandum prohibiting global health organizations that receive US aid money from discussing abortion with their clients, even if the programs where abortion is discussed are funded separately. This is an old Republican policy, except Trump’s version applies to 15 times more funds than George W. Bush’s or Ronald Reagan’s gag rules.

Why this is a bad sign: If anyone thought that a thrice-married reality TV star from Manhattan wouldn’t pursue the religious right’s policy goals, then they have been proven wrong. Whether Trump is a true believer or is just using policies like this to appease his base, he’s signaling that his administration will give the likes of Focus on the Family whatever they want, and do so in such an extreme way that Bush and Reagan will look like free-love hippies next to him.

2. John Gore was appointed to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Justice

What happened: John Gore, a lawyer who defended the anti-LGBT HB2 in North Carolina from claims that it violates the Constitution, has been appointed to lead the office in charge of upholding civil rights laws. Gore also has experience in defending voter suppression at the state level.

Why this is a bad sign: A lot of Trump’s appointees have been comically inappropriate for the roles they were chosen for. For example, Trump nominated a man who can’t remember that he wants to eliminate the Department of Energy to head the Department of Energy, and he nominated a CEO who wants to exploit his workers more to head the Department of Labor.

Gore’s appointment shows that civil rights will be no exception. The Office of Civil Rights is currently involved in a case about the federal ban on LGBT discrimination in health care plans and is charged with prosecuting hate crimes in accordance with the Matthew Shepard Act. Instead, the Office could move resources from defending civil rights to defending the right to discriminate, according to Lambda Legal.

1. The 3 people on Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court all have a history of rightwing extremism on social issues in their rulings

What happened: Politico reported earlier in the week that Trump has narrowed down the list of people to replace Antonin Scalia to three men: Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman, and William Pryor.

Gorsuch and Hardiman are solid conservatives without much of a record on LGBT cases . Gorsuch is best known for a very expansive definition of “religious freedom” in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, where he ruled that even requiring employers to say that they oppose contraception is a violation of their religious freedom. Hardiman once allowed a gay man to sue for discrimination, but is better known for his doctrinaire conservative approach to guns and to civil rights.

Pryor has a history of anti-gay legal activity. He filed a brief in 2003 arguing in favor of sodomy laws, equating homosexuality with “polygamy, incest, pedophilia, prostitution, and adultery.” In 2005 Lambda Legal called him “the most demonstrably antigay judicial nominee in recent memory” when he was nominated to the 11th Circuit Court.

Why this is a bad sign: The court system has been extremely important to advancing LGBT rights, on issues like sodomy laws and marriage rights, and the Supreme Court will probably be hearing LGBT cases for the next few decades.

Trump can nominate one Supreme Court Justice right off the bat, and he says he’ll announce the nominee next week. This is because Senate Republicans refused to confirm Obama’s nominee last year.

This could become worse over Trump’s term, setting back LGBT rights for decades. Three reliably pro-LGBT Supreme Court Justices are, well, old: Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 83 (and a pancreatic cancer survivor), Stephen Breyer is 78, and Anthony Kennedy is 80. If Trump has a chance to replace at least one of them, then the Supreme Court will shift to a 5-4 balance against LGBT rights.

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