17. He is no friend to LGBT Americans
On January 20, 2017, shortly after DT took the oath of office before a small crowd on the National Mall, all references to the LGBT community vanished from the web sites of the White House and other federal agencies. No explanation was given, and the content did not reappear. It seemed that the opening gambit in the new administration’s attempts to “Make America Great Again” involved making LGBT Americans invisible again.
For anyone who had followed the presidential campaign over the preceding year, it wasn’t a huge surprise. We had witnessed the cynical use of the rainbow flag at that summer’s Republican National Convention and we had heard assurances from DT that he considered marriage equality “settled” law, but it was already plain to see that the new president’s actions would be determined not by ethical or legal requirements but rather cold, hard political calculation.
And so it has been. DT hasn’t found advantage in making anti-LGBT policies a major focus of his agenda. Public opinion on LGBT rights evolved markedly in the first decade and a half of the 21st century, and catering to the bigoted whims of social conservatives no longer was a net positive for a public official outside of several deeply red states. Besides, his stated opposition to reproductive choice has already bought him favor (irrevocable favor, it seems) with a strong majority of evangelical voters. Nevertheless, his administration has actively pursued a number of discriminatory policies toward LGBT people, repeatedly declined to advance LGBT-friendly policies in instances where doing so would have been easy, and has consistently singled out transgender Americans for inferior treatment as if they somehow were unworthy of equality.
The administration’s blatant bias against transgender people is particularly troubling when one considers the epidemic of violent acts committed against those populations. Most notoriously, DT personally ordered a ban on transgender service members in all branches of the armed forces—a move that he initiated without consulting or even notifying military leaders (who had recently testified to Congress that they saw no need for any such ban). The administration also has ordered the Department of Education to stop looking into reports of discriminatory actions against trans students and rescinded antidiscrimination rules protecting trans people in several contexts, ranging from healthcare facilities to homeless shelters.
Other anti-LGBT actions taken by the administration include filing multiple amicus briefs in federal courts advocating for rulings that deny equal treatment under the law, channeling taxpayer dollars to antigay organizations (some of which are classified by the SPLC as hate groups), revoking the visas of same-sex partners of United Nations employees, granting adoption and foster-care agencies that receive federal funding exemptions allowing them to discriminate against families headed by same-sex couples, and watered down nondiscrimination requirements for companies seeking to become federal contractors so that sexual orientation was no longer a protected class. DT has indicated he is opposed to the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in several areas, such as housing and public accommodation, where other minorities have enjoyed federal protection for decades.
As if all that weren’t enough, DT has also appointed to positions in various agencies a slew of people with backgrounds in homophobic and transphobic activism. Several of them have ties to hate groups. None of them was particularly well qualified. Predictably, some of them have failed to check their prejudiced views at the door when they came to work, recreating a climate of fear in the workplace that certain federal agencies had shaken off a quarter-century before. Last but not least, let’s not forget that DT picked someone infamously hostile to LGBT people—Mike Pence—to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.
This sad chain of events will end when Joe Biden takes office, if only we elect him. If, on the other hand, we have four more years of DT, no one will be safe, and LGBT Americans will be especially at risk.
What about what’s-his-face?
Some of DT’s apologists have made a big deal out of the fact that he has appointed several openly gay persons to responsible positions, such as an ambassadorship. One group, the Log Cabin Republicans, somehow even parlayed that into his being “the most pro-gay president of all time.” This is delusional thinking or propaganda or both; it has no basis in reality. As this blog series has noted before, DT is transactional in everything he does. Appointing a gay man here and there gives him cover to claim that he’s not homophobic, which in turn gives groups like the Log Cabin Republicans cover to endorse a sociopathic villain like him. His personal views towards LGBT people are unclear, but that doesn’t really matter; what matters is that he has implemented anti-LGBT policies. He holds appallingly racist views towards African Americans, but he has appointed a few of them. (Very few.) One even serves in his Cabinet. (Just one.) He clearly has deep-seated issues with women, but he has appointed several of them, too. Fact is, DT would appoint a hookworm to a federal post just so long as that hookworm was an obsequious boot-licker with a proven right-wing agenda.