The Trump Administration spent four years spewing hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and instituting policies that hurt the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people.
Since President Joe Biden took office, he has made it clear he is working not only to reverse the damage Trump did to LGBTQ rights, but also to advance them even further.But of course, Biden can’t do it alone, and America has watched many heroic citizens rise up to undo what Trump did. LGBTQ Nation nominates five such heroes who are rebuilding America in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s war on LGBTQ rights.
These civil rights warriors include fiery, relentless parents who will stop at nothing to ensure their kids have the protections they deserve. They include legal and political legends who are demolishing barriers and making history in the Biden administration. They include folks whose rights the Trump administration considered disposable, rather than inalienable, and folks who will seemingly stop at nothing to ensure Trump’s hateful legacy is eradicated for good.
This year’s LGBTQ Nation’s “Hero Rebuilding America” nominees are Karine Jean-Pierre, who served as chief of staff to Kamala Harris during the campaign and is now principal deputy White House press secretary; Pamela Karlan, an iconic lawyer for the Biden Administration helping to ensure trans students are protected; Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, a U.S. couple who sued the Trump administration for their daughter’s right to U.S. citizenship; Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), who stands up for trans rights in honor of her daughter; and Shawn Skelly, the highest ranking out trans defense official in U.S. history.
During the 2020 Biden/Harris presidential campaign, lesbian political powerhouse Karine Jean-Pierre served as then-Sen. Kamala Harris’s chief of staff, which made her the first Black person to serve as chief of staff to a vice presidential candidate and one of the highest-ranking LGBTQ people in the campaign.
After Biden’s Inauguration, Jean-Pierre was appointed deputy White House press secretary, helping the Biden administration with communication she made history yet again as the second Black woman and the first out lesbian to host a press briefing on behalf of the White House on Air Force One.
After that, she became the second Black woman and the first out woman to lead a White House Press Briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. In that briefing, she showed that she was just as capable as her colleague – White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki – of smacking down Fox New reporter Peter Doocy’s accusatory questions.
Doocy was trying to push the narrative that Biden isn’t concerned with investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic… just after he announced a further investigation into just that.
Doocy: What would the President do? Would he do anything?
KJP: He’s doing something right now pic.twitter.com/N1OGSEVYvd
— Acyn (@Acyn) May 26, 2021
Pamela Karlan is a legendary lawyer for LGBTQ civil rights who was tapped by the Biden administration for a key post in the Department of Justice.
Karlan, also a Stanford law professor, helped the Obama Justice Department implement the result of United States v. Windsor, the 2013 decision that required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages. The case helped pave the way for Obergefell v. Hodges, which made marriage equality federal law.
Karlan also represented the plaintiffs in Bostock v. Clayton Co., the Supreme Court decision that said Title VII’s sex-based discrimination ban also protects LGBTQ people. Karlan also became known for her passionate testimony in Trump’s first impeachment hearings.
Biden appointed Karlan to Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, where she immediately got to work turning back the Trump administration’s license for schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students, issuing a memo saying that the Supreme Court’s decision in the case she helped win – Bostock – required Title IX’s ban on discrimination in education to include LGBTQ students.
The move was a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration’s opposition to protections for students.
Pamela Karlan: “What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the President responded, ‘I would like you to do us a favor.’ I’ll… send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.” pic.twitter.com/J96FY30k3y
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) December 4, 2019
Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg were successful in rolling back an attack on LGBTQ rights while Trump was still in office.
The dads, who are both U.S. citizens, sued the Trump administration for its refusal to grant their daughter U.S. citizenship after she was born with the help of a surrogate in the U.K.
Mize and Gregg went to the U.S. consulate after their daughter was born and faced invasive questions about how she was conceived, questions that the State Department doesn’t require straight couples to answer even though straight couples often have children with the help of sperm and egg donors and surrogates.
The consulate declared that their child was born “out of wedlock” because neither Mize nor Gregg were married to the surrogate mother, even though Mize and Gregg are married and both are listed on their daughter’s birth certificate. This declaration would require one of them to prove that they’re the biological father, which U.S. law doesn’t require but the State Department demanded.
While waiting at the embassy, the couple saw about 20 straight couples in similar situations get citizenship documents for their children with the same paperwork that they had, with no questions about biological parenthood posed.
Mize and Gregg sued the State Department for their daughter’s right to U.S. citizenship. Last summer, a federal court in Atlanta defied the Trump administration and ruled in favor of the couple, allowing them to get their daughter’s citizenship through the same process straight parents use.
The Trump administration chose not to appeal and dropped an appeal in a similar case, effectively settling the issue in favor of LGBTQ equality.
A same-sex married couple in Georgia sued the US State Department for refusing to recognize their daughter born via surrogacy in England as a citizen. Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg are both listed on the birth certificate.https://t.co/idxcqgL3Pr pic.twitter.com/xL64FctG0S
— New Day (@NewDay) July 26, 2019
Rep. Marie Newman is fierce mother of a trans daughter, Evie, and a passionate trans rights advocate in Congress.
She made an impassioned speech on the House floor in favor of the Equality Act in February. The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights legislation, banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
In the speech, she called the day Evie came out as trans the best day of her life, because, she explained, it was the day her daughter became her authentic self.
“The right time to pass this Act was decades ago,” Newman said. “The second best time is right now. I’m voting Yes on the Equality Act for Evie Newman, my daughter and the strongest, bravest person I know.”
Without the Equality Act, millions of Americans like my daughter can be denied housing, education, and more simply because they identify as transgender.
I’m voting to pass the Equality Act for my daughter – the strongest, bravest person I know. pic.twitter.com/vnt6yeDQOh
— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) February 24, 2021
Newman’s office is also across the hall from the office of anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). The day after Newman’s speech, Greene tried to shut down Congress to prevent debate on the Equality Act because she considers LGBTQ rights “disgusting, immoral, and evil.”
In response, Newman put up a transgender flag in front of her office so Greene would have to see it every day. Greene responded with a wildly transphobic sign outside her own door.
Nevertheless, Newman has made it clear that when it comes to the rights of her daughter and the rest of the trans community, she isn’t backing down.
Our neighbor, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral, and evil.”
Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door 😉🏳️⚧️ pic.twitter.com/dV8FatQFnx
— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) February 24, 2021
Newman got her seat in Congress by winning a primary against former Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), who was known as the most anti-LGBTQ Democrat in Congress.
Shawn Skelly is a trans veteran who joined Biden’s transition team and went on to be nominated Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. She was the first trans veteran to receive a presidential appointment. Once confirmed, she became the highest-ranking out transgender defense official in U.S. history, several years after the previous president banned most transgender people from serving openly in the military.
Skelly is a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander and former Director of the Executive Secretariat in the Department of Transportation under the Obama administration. She also was a former special assistant to the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.
Skelly is also an outspoken advocate for the rights of trans veterans. Last September, she co-wrote an op-ed for LGBTQ Nation attacking the Trump administration for anti-trans discrimination and urging people to vote for Biden.
The scathing piece criticized “the Trump/Pence administration’s campaign to drive transgender people out of the mainstream of American society through the deliberate removal of legal recognition and protections of every sort… in these cases targeting those who have volunteered to risk their lives in service to our nation, service members and veterans.”
It said the Trump administration’s efforts were “rooted in bigotry, ignorance, hatred, and a self-proclaimed moral superiority that is antithetical to the founding documents of this nation.”
Now Skelly calling the shots.
Vote now to tell us who you believe is this year’s Hero Rebuilding America.