Back in December, I theorized how Trump’s cabinet choices could make trouble for LGBTQ Americans. It wasn’t hard to do. Then, the issue was what could an antigay Attorney General or Secretary of HUD and Education do to erode rights enjoyed by gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Now as we are at the consequential (if somewhat arbitrary) 100-day marker of the Trump presidency, we have a better idea of what this administration can do, and has done, to LGBTQs. It’s not just his cabinet and his advisors. Much of the damage is being done with the stroke of a pen. If I were to give this administration a report card on LGBTQ issues, the grade would be F, underscored with a black sharpie.
It’s interesting, though, how Trump campaigned promising to be a great friend to gays and lesbians – he lied, I’m shocked – and held up a rainbow flag at one of his rallies (though he held it upside down, an inadvertent omen of what was to come).
Now three months into the administration, the hits keep coming. Let’s look at some of the lowlights, in chronological order.
The administration wasted no time in erasing LGBTQ content from the White House and Department of State websites. It was on the very first day of Trump’s presidency. You may think that it was a mass web re-do. But no. LGBTQ references were the only removals from those sites. Talk about setting a tone.
The major cabinet choices rolled out in November and December weren’t the end of the LGBTQ-hostile appointments. In late January, Trump hired James Renne to a senior post in the Department of Agriculture. In April, it was revealed by a Pro Publica investigation that Renne had led a purge of LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush administration.
When Betsy DeVos was nominated as Education Secretary, I mentioned that her department could revoke the Obama administration’s guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students. I wasn’t exactly Nostradamus, but I was correct. In late February the administration issued a statement saying that transgender student rights should be left up to states and local school districts.
March was a big month for rolling back LGBTQ equality.
On March 23 Trump appointed anti-transgender activist Roger Severino to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. Severino once called transgender equality laws “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
On March 27, Trump signed an executive order rescinding the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, which Obama issued in 2014. That act required companies to prove they comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws in order to receive federal contracts. That leaves LGBTQ workers especially vulnerable and without explicit nondiscrimination protections under federal law.
In early April, the Department of Justice, under notorious LGBTQ foe Jeff Sessions, inaugurated a Hate Crimes Subcommittee as part of a crime-fighting task force. Wait, that sounds good, right? While Sessions indicated his intent to not tolerate threats or violence based on “religious beliefs or background,” he left out any reference to LGBTQ Americans, who are, he may or may not know, more likely to be targeted by hate crimes than any minority.
On April 7, Trump nominated Mark Green as Secretary of the Army. Green, who suggested that being transgender is a disease, replaced the openly gay Army Secretary Eric Fanning. Green was slammed by LGBT groups as dangerous to gay, lesbian, bi and trans soldiers.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned the reported murder, torture and detention of LGBTQ people in Chechnya and urged Chechen and Russian authorities to intervene. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been silent on the alleged Chechen LGBTQ pogrom. Actually he’s been silent on just about everything. And it may have been just a coincidence, but a few days after Haley spoke up, Trump took an unfunny (and un-Presidential) jab at her.
And it’s not even May.
It should be pointed out that in February, the Southern Poverty Law Center published the “The Year in Hate and Extremism“ report in February, with a key conclusion that Trump’s presidential campaign inspired the creation of new hate groups, including anti-LGBTQ groups. Quite an achievement.
And here’s a disastrous act that could have happened. In January, a leaked draft of an anti-LGBTQ executive order, one based on a “religious freedom” bill that critics said would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. Trump denied that he was considering the order. According to Politico, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are keeping Trump from signing the order.
Exit polling from the 2016 election showed that self-identified LGBTQ voters rejected Trump bigly. He got only 14 percent of that vote, lower than past GOP Presidential candidates Mitt Romney (22 percent) and John McCain (27 percent). Fourteen percent! After four years – or, hey, maybe fewer – of Trump, is it possible that any GOP candidate will be getting double digit support of LGBTQ voters?