As Election Day approaches, you might be spending some time countering your relatives’ or friends’ more preposterous beliefs, such as that political elites are trafficking children and holding Satanic rituals — or that Donald Trump is not anti-LGBTQ+.
There are some otherwise reasonable — well, sort of reasonable — people who believe this about Trump, based on, well, nothing. Except occasional vague statements from Trump that he’s good for the gays (how?), torturous efforts to pronounce the initials the community goes by, and a high-ranking gay appointee (now out of government) who was not exactly beloved by LGBTQ+ people. Recently members of the Trump family have appeared at so-called Trump Pride rallies aimed at appealing to LGBTQ+ voters, but scientific polling shows these voters overwhelmingly favor Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
It could be argued that Trump isn’t sincerely anti-anyone, nor is he pro-anyone but himself; he simply takes stands he thinks will bring him some advantage. But there is no question that he and his administration have taken actions that are anti-LGBTQ+, undoubtedly pandering to the Christian right, a major source of his support. The Advocate has been documenting these actions ever since he took office, and so have LGBTQ+ activist groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. Herewith, some of the most egregious.
Targeting transgender kids. One of the first actions of the Trump administration, in February 2017, was revoking guidelines created by President Barack Obama’s administration that advised schools receiving federal funding to let trans students use the restrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity, and to respect those students’ preferred names and pronouns. Schools remain free to set inclusive policies, but many won’t do so without urging from the federal government. More recently, Trump’s Justice Department has supported attempts to bar trans girls from competing in girls’ sports.
The infamous transgender military ban. Trump announced it via Twitter, his favorite means of communication, in July 2017, and it finally took effect nearly two years later, but it’s still being challenged in court. It’s based on the specious premise that trans troops undermine military readiness (studies show they don’t) and that their health care is too costly (the Defense Department spends more on Viagra). Those who came out as trans before the policy went into effect in April 2019 are grandfathered in, but no trans person can enlist unless they’re willing to serve in the gender they were assigned at birth.
Opposition to antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. In the discrimination cases brought by gay men Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda, and transgender woman Aimee Stephens, to the Supreme Court, the Trump Justice Department filed briefs arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, doesn’t apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If Congress wanted to ban those types of discrimination, the Justice Department asserted, it would have spelled that out in the law. (The court, fortunately, took a different position.) The Equality Act, now pending in Congress, would spell that out in the law — and Trump opposes it. The Equality Act, by the way, is still needed because the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to employment discrimination, while the Equality Act would add protections in housing, public accommodations, and other areas of life.
Promotion of the “religious freedom” to discriminate. Trump and his administration have used the rulemaking process, by which the government interprets laws, and executive orders over and over again to offer health care providers, operators of homeless shelters, government employees, and many others broad latitude to turn away people who offend their religious beliefs, including by being part of the LGBTQ+ community. And Noel Francisco, then Trump’s solicitor general, argued in the 2017 Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case that the bakery owner’s religious beliefs gave him the right to refuse service to a gay couple who wanted a wedding cake. The court ruled in the baker’s favor the following year, but the decision didn’t establish a broad right to discriminate. Now the Trump administration has filed a brief in a case the court will hear on November, on whether faith-based adoption and foster care agencies have the right to discriminate even if they receive taxpayer funds. Yes, the brief supports the “freedom” to discriminate.
The courts. Oh, the courts. Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s choice to succeed the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, has criticized its marriage equality decision, served as a trustee of private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, and taken other appalling stands. She could be confirmed any day now. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, provided a pleasant surprise in authoring the Title VII decision, but the second one, Brett Kavanaugh, dissented, and he has other, uh, issues. Trump has also stacked lower federal courts — district and appellate — with a sizable number of anti-LGBTQ+ judges. And these are lifetime appointments.
The Cabinet and the vice president. Many of the people in Trump’s Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions subscribe to anti-LGBTQ+ ideology. Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development is a marriage equality opponent and has called trans women “big, hairy men.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deemed the marriage equality decision “a shocking abuse of power” and recently spoke to a group that endorses conversion therapy. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first attorney general, had a long record of homophobia and transphobia as a senator and added to it as AG, willingly revoking the trans student guidance and setting up a “religious liberty” task force. He was drummed out for being insufficiently loyal to Trump during the Russia investigation, but current AG William Barr is no friend to LGBTQ+ people either, handling the Justice Department’s attacks on trans student athletes. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is joining in those too, and she won’t take a stand against discrimination. And the vice president — a heartbeat away from the presidency — is big-time homophobe Mike Pence, he of “license to discriminate” laws and more.
Generally undoing everything good that President Obama did. In addition to the trans military ban (reversing an Obama policy) and revoking the trans student guidance, Trump has used an executive order to make Obama’s ban on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination by federal contractors essentially unenforceable, and the rulemaking process to get rid of the Affordable Care Act’s ban on anti-LGBTQ+ bias in health care (that’s being contested in court). And he wants the entire ACA to be declared unconstitutional, during a pandemic; the Supreme Court, most likely including Barrett, will hear a case on that in November. A high percentage of LGBTQ+ people have preexisting conditions, for which the ACA mandates coverage, and they’re more likely than the general population to depend on public programs for their health care.
So there you have it — plenty of information with which to combat other folks’ misguided perception that Trump is not a threat to LGBTQ+ people. Maybe they like him for some other reason (kids in cages, tax cuts for the rich, downplaying a pandemic — what’s to like?), but there’s a chance this info will make them come around. Good luck — and vote!