For months Donald Trump has grabbed almost all the headlines and sucked all the oxygen out of the room with his outrageous statements. From ridiculing John McCain's military record to insulting Mexican immigrants to mocking a physically challenged reporter to calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country, Trump's outrageousness seems destined to prevent him from becoming president.
Ben Carson's star is already fading, and Ted Cruz seems like a poor bet to ever see the inside of the White House. He has alienated almost everyone he ever interacts with; college roommates, campaign workers, and Senate colleagues all detest him. Additionally, Cruz is pandering to conservative Christian evangelicals. While this might help win Iowa, the strategy was ultimately a losing one for previous caucus winners like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
This leaves precisely one "establishment" Republican left with any realistic chance at winning the presidential primaries: Marco Rubio. While Trump still leads the polls, prognosticators and oddsmakers see Rubio as the runaway favorite to win the Republican nomination. Indeed, polling data suggests that in a Hillary Clinton versus Marco Rubio general election, Marco Rubio would win if the election were held today.
So you would think that the mainstream "moderate" GOP candidate would take a more conciliatory tone on LGBT issues, right?
Marco Rubio's positions are universally hostile to LGBT people, and he has repeatedly taken positions that would roll back the rights of LGBT Americans in nearly every facet of life.
Rubio believes that same-sex marriage is not settled law and will be overturned because "God's law always wins." To make it happen he has promised to appoint originalist judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn the Obergefell ruling, which granted marriage equality across the country. With two more conservative justices appointed by Rubio, plus Thomas, Scalia, and Alito, the future of marriage equality looks pretty dim.
(RELATED: Inside the Right-Wing Plot to Overturn Marriage Equality)
His choice for faith outreach director, Eric Teetsel, was the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, which created a document promising to disobey the law rather than recognize same-sex marriage. Teetsel believes the "loving" thing to do with LGBT people is to tell them how much God hates their sin. Indeed, his primary message has been that Christian beliefs trump the law, and Rubio has been right there with him every step of the way.
Rubio is one of the original cosponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would create a license for every individual, business, and government employee in America to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. It would even allow these same people and institutions to discriminate against unwed mothers, single parents, and anyone else whose household doesn't involve "one man and one woman." This would effectively nullify most city- and state-level protections of LGBT people, rendering decades of legislative and case law work moot.
Rubio has also promised to repeal President Obama's executive order protecting LGBT government employees and federal contractors. Given how many of my closest friends have been mercilessly harassed and abused in Department of Defense facilities in the South, this will effectively declare open season on many LGBT people in the defense and intelligence communities.
At every turn, he has tried to make life worse for LGBT Americans. He opposed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Senator Rubio headlined conferences supporting reparative therapy. He even threatened to vote against his own immigration bill if it protected same-sex couples.
For all of this, though, Rubio could easily reduce life in America for transgender people to an unlivable dystopia. He's already promised that any federal support of transgender people's rights, including their access to appropriate bathrooms, would be going away. In practice, this is what it means:
The Rubio-appointed heads of the Equal Employment Opoortunity Commission and the Department of Justice would no longer support claims by transgender people under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, even if such a claim involved an employer not allowing them to transition or putting them in physical danger. In all likelihood, this loss of support would result in eventual reversal of the positive case law it has taken decades to build. And if it reached the Supreme Court, it will likely take two to three generations to recover from the damage done by a conservative-dominated court.
Department of Education support for transgender students would evaporate, and Title IX claims by transgender students would no longer have government support. This would in all likelihood leave schools free to set rules on transgender students that would effectively force them to choose between expressing their gender identity and getting an education via restrictions on gender expression and bathroom use. In most places, where public hatred of transgender people is free to run rampant, it means most transgender or gender-nonconforming children would end up scarred for life or with no life prospects because getting an education in a safe environment was impossible.
The Affordable Care Act would be repealed or, at a minimum, the part protecting transgender people's access to affirming health care removed.
The Department of State and Social Security Administration, if run by Rubio's cronies, could make gender changes on passports and other government documents nearly impossible again as well, either by adopting the old rules requiring surgery or even more draconian ones. The SSA could reinstate the "no match" warnings given to employers when gender markers don't match their records on employment applications. Losing the ability to get a correct passport would deprive transgender people of the one government ID document all trans Americans could reliably obtain without unwanted, unobtainable surgery.
So what does Marco Rubio's America look like?
It's one where everyone, including corporations and government employees, is free to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. It's one where LGBT people are no longer able to marry the one they love.
It is an America where transgender people have lost their hard-won workplace protections. It is a country where schools districts are free to make sure transgender children either go back into the closet or face state-sanctioned torture until they quit, forfeiting their education. It looks like one where no transgender adult can obtain accurate government ID or seek a job without being outed as by their own government. It is a country where thousands of transgender people have lost access to affirming medical care.
It is an America where 40 years of LGBT progress paid for with blood, sweat, toil, and tears are utterly erased.
Say hello to our next president. And welcome to hell.
BRYNN TANNEHILL graduated from the Naval Academy in 1997 before serving as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas. She later worked as a senior defense research scientist in private industry; she left the drilling reserves and began transitioning in 2010. Since then, she has written for OutServe, The New Civil Rights Movement, Salon, Everyday Feminism, The Good Men Project, Bilerico, and The Huffington Post.