If anyone hoped Donald Trump might truly be an ally to the LGBT community, if only by Republican standards, that sentiment would be shattered by the time he sat a full cabinet. Here’s a sampling of homophobes and transphobes appointed to key position’s in the president’s administration.
Call the former governor of Indiana an early indicator. Selected as Trump’s running mate for president in July 2016, Michael Richard Pence represented the worst fears of LGBT Americans come to life in the form of a mild-mannered ex-talk show host. Pence was already known as America’s foremost anti-LGBT governor, thanks to his support for the decidedly doomed Religion Freedom Restoration Act. As a member of Congress before that, Pence predicted from the House floor that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse.” Pence now sits one McHeartAttack away from the presidency. His résumé as vice president to date includes raising the ire of America’s LGBT Olympians and successfully lobbying to increase the hardship on trans troops and youth.
Perhaps no one in a presidential administration holds such sway on enforcement of civil rights as the attorney general. That’s bad news for LGBT Americans, as their rights depend on the whim of former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a man Lambda Legal says is on an anti-LGBT Crusade. A defender of so-called religious liberty (at least for Christians), Sessions has fought to allow employers and businesses to discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identification, along the way also changing the Department of Justice stance to favor restriction of existing civil rights. As a lawmaker, he voted against allowing spousal benefits to same-sex couples.
The Housing and Urban Development secretary once ran against Trump in the Republican primary, where he called trans people abnormal, associated homosexuality with bestiality, and once suggested that supporters of same-sex marriage were akin to the pro-pedophile group NAMBLA. Now he oversees a department whose mission includes stopping landlords from discriminating against gay men and transgender people. Yikes.
While the secretary of Education conveniently leaked last year that she’d fought the rescinding of Obama-era protections for transgender students, Betsy DeVos this year has said her agency will not investigate any claims of discrimination from transgender students, and stood by as the Trump administration shifted policies on whether Title IX protections including gender identity, to the delight of right-wingers. And before joining the administration, DeVos’ family foundation donated generously to such anti-LGBT groups as the Family Research Council.
Known as “Mad Dog” in military circles, he could also be called the intolerant pit bull for his anti-LGBT stances. The former general joined Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military co-editor Kori Schake in condemning the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he’s also called into question the ability of women to serve in combat.
Before being named as Trump’s second choice for Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta founded the anti-LGBT Project of the Judiciary and served on the awards committee for the notorious Family Research Council, with the latter group dubbing him one of the country’s “leading pro-family legal scholars,” noted GLAAD. In those capacities, he joined in condemnation of Vermont court rulings favoring same-sex unions.
Trump’s Agriculture secretary issued a letter in 2017 announcing any USDA-inspected plants packing meat and veggies could freely post any anti-LGBT materials they would like, as noted by Joe My God. Perdue dubbed the move a reestablishment of the department’s commitment to the First Amendment.
Former Dancing With The Stars loser (and Texas Gov.) Rick Perry, like Carson, campaigned against Trump before joining his administration. The secretary of Energy in the past compared being gay to being an alcoholic and said supporting the Boy Scouts’ now-rescinded ban on gay scouts showed the same “principled leadership” as past Texan leaders’ opposition to slavery. Well, he didn’t lose that dancing competition for an inability to pat himself on the back.
While the controversial secretary of State nominee still awaits a final confirmation vote, outgoing CIA director Mike Pompeo has already made clear he won’t back off his anti-LGBT views. Those include his opposition to same-sex unions and a conviction that gay sex is a “perversion.” The record prompted GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis to declare Pompeo “dangerously wrong to serve as our nation’s chief diplomat” and “wholly unqualified to promote human rights abroad.”
Before serving as Trump’s secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke served as Montana’s sole congressional representative. In 2016, he pushed for a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in all federal agencies. The move drew condemnation from the Human Rights Campaign for attempting to undo protections from discrimination put in place by President Obama.
Before serving as President Trump’s secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao worked in President Bush’s Labor department at a time when the agency turned a blind eye to anti-LGBT discrimination. She also spoke in 2016 to supporters of virulently anti-gay policies in Iran, as reported by The Independent. And of course, she’s campaigned steadily for husband and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the anti-LGBT Senate Majority leader.
As of this writing, Pruitt remains the director of Environmental Protection Agency, though like the ozone, that may not last long. While he faces mounting accusations about financial dealings and ethical breaches, he also boasts an anti-LGBT record dating back before his appointment. As attorney general for Oklahoma, Pruitt opposed Obama-era edicts on the treatment of trans students and fought legalization of marriage equality, all earning him a nickname among Sooner State activists as “head bully.”
Before becoming Trump’s Commerce secretary, Wilber Ross in 2012 attended a now-infamous Wall Street fraternity party documented by New York Magazine writer Kevin Roose where he cracked homophobic jokes about the Kappa Beta Phi logo and joined with other more acrimonious jests about Barney Franks “coming in different-sized buns.”
Granted, she’s reformed some of her anti-LGBT ways, but Linda McMahon during a 2010 run for Senate in Connecticut courted the endorsement of the homophobic Family Institute of Connecticut by supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed same-sex unions. Two years later, she rescinded that position and lost the organization’s support. But since becoming Trump’s head of the Small Business Administration, she’s demonstrated a weak record on discrimination laws.
LGBT activists have never quite known what to make of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, admittedly one of the least embarrassing members of the Trump administration. As South Carolina’s governor, she espoused rhetorical support for “religious freedom” without ever backing any type of discrimination like the trans bathroom bill that created headaches for neighboring North Carolina. But for a year and a half now, the administration has remained silent on the international stage about Chechnya, something the Human Rights Campaign certainly found deafening. And the U.S. last year joined just 12 other countries in opposing a resolution condemning the execution of LGBT people on the grounds it was too anti-execution. That bizarre stance drew rebuke in Haley’s home state newspaper The State.
A Lambda Legal review of judicial appointments over the first year of Trump’s presidency showed nearly one-third of his lifetime appointments to the bench went to anti-LGBT judges. And despite certain tweets to the contrary, his appointments have been confirmed at a relatively breakneck pace compared to his predecessors. The appointments could have an enduring and disproportionate impact on LGBT individuals living in the South. A total 16 of his nominees faced official opposition from the pro-civil rights group.
Of course, most notable on that list would be now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the first Supreme Court appointment ever opposed by Lambda Legal. Of particular note in Gorsuch’s background would be his opinion in the landmark Hobby Lobby decision which allowed employers to make health care decisions for employees based on corporate religious beliefs.
Another transition team member, former Attorney General Ed Reese previously worked with Mike Pence in support of the embarrassingly disastrous "religious freedom" law in Indiana, as noted by the Human Rights Campaign. The group also noted Meese’s past suggestion that marriage equality "shows how culture has deteriorated over two centuries.”
Also, pour one out (or drink it up in celebration) for ousted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned in disgrace over a spending scandal. While not technically a part of Trump’s administration anymore, he still gets a spot on this list for an enduring legacy of anti-LGBT policies that literally threaten the lives of Americans. While secretary, he allowed for businesses dispensing health services to discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens, as noted by Politico. He also boasted a solidly homophobic record as a congressman before winning his presidential appointment.