From the repeal of basic civil rights protections to the elimination of safety net programs that protect and care for the most vulnerable, the LGBT community is facing historic threats from our federal government today. In fact, President Trump’s first executive orders are more than threats, they’re potentially deadly actions, and we’ve learned this is just the beginning.
While violence against LGBT people is escalating in parts of the world, the president has prohibited those fleeing persecution in seven Middle Eastern countries, including those who have experienced violence and may be killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, from getting asylum here. More than that, he has signed orders calling for aggressive action to find and deport undocumented immigrants, sending thousands of LGBT people back to countries where they could face violence, torture, and even murder.
The president has also enacted a dangerous global “gag rule” on international family planning organizations that are funded by the U.S. Not only must they stop providing abortion services, they’re forbidden to even discuss abortion as an option. This is mandated despite the fact that taxpayer dollars are never used to pay for abortion services — that’s already illegal. What’s the impact specifically to LGBT people? Surprisingly to some, studies suggest that pregnancies are more common among LGBT youth than their heterosexual counterparts. Additionally, lesbians and bisexual women are at higher risk of sexual assault.
What’s next? It keeps getting worse. Despite the president’s recent statement that he’s “respectful and supportive of LGBT rights” and won’t repeal Obama’s executive order that protects LGBT employees of federal contractors from workplace discrimination, he campaigned on a pledge to sign the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act. Now we’ve learned he’s not waiting for Congress to send him a bill.
I’ve seen the “freedom to discriminate” executive order that has been drafted. and it’s much more sweeping and horrible than I feared. It supersedes Obama’s executive order and even permits federal employees, paid by our tax dollars, to refuse to serve LGBT people. We must not fall prey to the spin that this is about “religious freedom.” The only “freedom” advanced by this order is the freedom to oppress, the freedom to discriminate, and the freedom to harm others.
In addition to his voluminous, heartless, and un-American decrees, I’m very concerned about Trump’s choice of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch's judicial philosophy and record is as out of the mainstream as any nominee could be, and the fact that he describes himself as the “second coming of Antonin Scalia” — the most notoriously anti-LGBT justice to ever serve on the nation’s highest court — should be alarming to all. The Senate must conduct an extreme vetting of Judge Gorsuch. If he cannot unequivocally say that the Supreme Court’s decisions upholding the constitutional freedom and equality of LGBT people over the last 20 years are — and will — remain the law of the land, then he must be rejected.
As the nation’s largest social safety net for LGBT people, we at the Los Angeles LGBT Center are especially concerned about the threats and actions of our federal government. The center welcomes more than 42,000 visits each month from homeless youth, low-income seniors, people living with HIV, survivors of domestic violence, and many others who include the most vulnerable in our community — namely LGBT people who depend on the center for care and support, hope, and a home.
Thousands of low-income and uninsured people, including many living with HIV, depend on the Center and other community health centers for medical care and medicine. The promised repeal of Obamacare, with no satisfactory replacement plan, would mean the loss of lives. So would defunding the Ryan White Care Act, which has historically received bipartisan support.
The center will survive as an organization, but if federal funding for some of our vital programs is eliminated, I fear some of our clients may not.
That’s why, on Inauguration Day, the center launched a campaign called 100 Days and Me. Our goal, for now, is to educate people about threats to the LGBT community during the first 100 days of the Trump administration and mobilize them to take action. People in Los Angeles who sign up at 100DaysAndMe.org will receive information about the local trainings and targeted actions we’re planning in L.A., and people around the country will learn about actions they can take to respond to policies and legislation that would harm LGBT people.
We’re also working more closely than ever before with local and progressive organizations throughout the country by sharing information and response strategies since human rights — not just LGBT rights — are at stake. And because no community is more diverse than the community of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.