We’re a year-and-a-half into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it’s easy to become numb to the barrage of crazy tweets, racist dog whistles, and almost comically flagrant corruption that characterizes the current administration.
Trump runs the White House as if it were the setting for a reality show; where being outrageous is all that really matters. He knows that the press is easily distracted by bright shiny objects, and he’s gleefully willing to oblige because he controls the narrative.
But what gets the most attention isn’t what’s most important. In fact, fuming about Trump’s outrageous behavior obscures what really matters: Trump has instituted a sustained war on LGBTQ rights.
It’s not as if every attack has gone unnoticed. However, looking at each episode individually dilutes the collective impact. When you put them all together, the pattern is clear.
Despite the lingering myth that Trump really isn’t anti-gay, he is more determined to roll back the clock on LGBTQ progress than any of his predecessors.
Unfortunately, many of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ policies and decisions will impact the community long after he has left office.
Here’s a list to put into perspective all the destructive steps that Trump has taken against LGBTQ people – so far.
Appointed the most homophobic Cabinet in history. Trump’s cabinet is a veritable who’s who of anti-LGBTQ politicians. Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, Tom Price, Jeff Sessions – the list goes on and on.
As scandals engulf individual members or they fall out of favor, Trump often replaces them with someone worse.
Mike Pompeo, with a history of anti-LGBTQ politics replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Trump’s replacement to run Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, began his career working for Sen. Jesse Helms, the most homophobic member of Congress ever.
Anti-LGBTQ extremism is almost a requirement to join the Trump administration.
Choose a vice president who built a career attacking LGBTQ people. Mike Pence is a darling of the religious right – and with good reason. He made his name as a Congressman dedicated to opposing LGBTQ rights.
He then moved on to become governor of Indiana, where he signed a religious liberty law designed to remove protections against discrimination. The law was so unpopular that Pence’s career seemed over until Trump rescued him. Now Pence is one of the most powerful men in Washington.
Turned the GOP over to the religious right. Trump rewards loyalty, and no one has been more loyal to Trump than conservative evangelicals. As a result, Trump caters to his base’s every whim, whether its political appointments or religious freedom summits.
The press talks about how Trump has taken over the GOP, but in reality it’s the religious right that is now controlling the party agenda, with all the attendant attacks on LGBTQ rights.
Made the Supreme Court hostile territory again. One reason the religious right loves Trump so much is that he’s delivered the Supreme Court to them.
Starting with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy, which threatens to erode the gains that Kennedy was most responsible for.
Turned the federal judiciary against us for years. While most of the focus has been on the Supreme Court, Trump has been stocking the rest of the federal courts with ideologues who will be opposing LGBTQ progress decades after he’s has left office.
According to Lambda Legal, at least one-third of Trump’s nominees have extensive anti-LGBTQ track records. Moreover, those courts are the pipeline for future Supreme Court justices.
Targeted trans and HIV-positive service members. In one tweet, Trump personally reversed the military’s policy of allowing trans military personnel to serve their country (as it turns out, Mike Pence and religious right leader Tony Perkins were architects of the policy).
The ban keeps running into roadblocks in the courts, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from expanding his war against LGBTQ people to include HIV-positive service members, whom he now wants to boot from the military.
Threw the power of the government behind the right to discriminate. Trump has made the federal government a primary proponent for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people by backing religious liberty.
The biggest example was the government’s decision to side with the homophobic baker in the Masterpiece Cake suit before the Supreme Court, reversing the Obama administration’s position. But that’s not the only one.
Trump has also created an entire division within Health and Human Services dedicated to allowing health care workers to opt-out of providing care on religious grounds. The impact will fall heavily on transgender patients and people with HIV.
Made schools less safe for transgender students. Trump took away protections for transgender students that the Obama administration had put in place, allowing students to use the bathroom of the gender that they identify with most.
The Department of Education also no longer accepts discrimination complaints from transgender students.
Opened the way for employers to discriminate. The Trump administration has actually argued in court that employers should be able to fire gay employees. It went one step further for transgender employees, rescinding an Obama-era ruling that existing federal gender nondiscrimination protections applied to trans workers.
Marginalized HIV issues and paved the way to make it a pre-existing condition again. Trump has shown so little interest in HIV that he fired his entire HIV/AIDS council without explanation. To make matters worse, his administration is eviscerating Obamacare by, among other things, allowing for some health plans to consider HIV a pre-existing condition again. That means higher premiums at a minimum, if you’re even able to get coverage.
To add insult to injury, he took money away from AIDS programs to fund his heartless policy of separating children from their parents when they tried to enter the U.S. as asylum seekers. That issue is still ongoing.
Put the lives of of LGBTQ asylum seekers at risk and destroyed families. Trump hates almost all immigrants (except those from Norway), so it’s not surprising that he is trying to send LGBTQ immigrants back to their homelands, where they would face violence and even death.
He has unleashed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), resulting in same-sex married couples being separated after years of living together and contributing to their communities.
Bolstered a viciously homophobic Russia. Whatever the reason for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s hold on Trump, the result is the same: an emboldened Russia that knows it faces no consequences for its often violent oppression of LGBTQ citizens.
Pointedly refused to acknowledge Pride. After years of the White House celebrating June as Pride month, Trump has made it clear to the LGBTQ community that he would rather be celebrating National Ocean Month.
While his refusal acknowledge the LGBTQ community is largely symbolic, it also shows how hostile a work environment the federal government has become for LGBTQ workers. Some gay staffers are now removing their wedding rings before coming to work out of fear of retaliation by political appointees.
Without question, this list will grow as Trump feels less constrained with time. But the pattern is clear: the Trump administration is engaged in willful destruction of LGBTQ rights on every possible front. The next time anyone tries to tell you otherwise, just remember this list.