Trump and LGBT Rights
In this article, we shall discuss US President Donald Trump and LGBT Rights in America. We will examine his comments with regards to LGBT Rights, as well as his actions and decisions regarding LGBT issues in office. As we shall point out, there are many things that Trump has done to weaken LGBT rights in America. While this might be viewed as a domestic issue, This topic is very important for international relations, given the importance of working and fighting for LGBTI protections throughout the world. There are many cases of LGBTI individuals being targeting and discriminated against, and thus, it is necessary to speak out against such human rights violations wherever they are found.
What Has Been the Relationship Between Trump and LGBT Rights?
During his campaigning for President, Donald Trump made comments which looked to support LGBT rights. For example, “During his 75-minute speech at the Republican National Convention in July, Donald Trump looked genuinely surprised at the roar of applause when he said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens”” (West, 2016).
He also argued that he was “…much better for the gays” than Clinton (West, 2017), and that “Clinton could never be a friend of the gay community” (Shabad, 2016). Others challenged this notion. For example, Jay Brown, who is a spokesperson for Human Rights Campaign, was quoted as saying that “”Donald Trump has vowed to roll back marriage equality, pass Kim Davis-style discrimination and allow governors from coast to coast to pass laws like North Carolina’s HB2” (in Shabad, 2016).
We also have to look at Trump’s comments years prior. For example, as early as the year 2000, Trump said that if he was in charge politically, “sexual orientation would be meaningless. I’m looking for brains and experience. If the best person for the job happens to be gay, I would certainly appoint them”” (Johnson, 2017, in Advocate, 2015).
As West Notes (2016).
Trump himself does not support nationwide marriage equality and has said he would “strongly consider” appointing judges to overturn it. In one 2011 speech, Trump likened his refusal to embrace same-sex marriage to his reluctance to use a new kind of golf putter, as the New York Times reported:
“It’s like in golf,” he said. “A lot of people—I don’t want this to sound trivial—but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive,” said Mr. Trump, a Republican. “It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”
Now, while one could argue that someone can change their position on an issue over time, more recent statements and actions suggest that Trump–at a minimum–is willing to surround himself with others who are not fully open to LGBT rights. For example, the Republican national platform had a number of points that seemed to be against LGBT rights. Namely, it speaks about protecting marriage as that between a man and a woman (in West, 2016).
The platform also supports “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children,” a provision that was born out of a fight to allow parents to take their kids to “conversion therapy”—a bogus practice that attempts to “un-gay” patients. Conversion therapy has been made illegal in several states. (According to Time, the original language proposed by Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council and a delegate from Louisiana, was a more strident defense of the “therapy.”) The platform also rejects gay and lesbian families by saying, “A man and a woman family is the best, ideal vehicle for raising children” (West, 2016).
Along with this, Trump selected then Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential candidate. Mike Pence has a history of opposing LGBT rights.
Trump and LGBT Rights While in Office
While the initial comments made by Trump seemed to ease concerns, actions later have been quite troubling with regards to Trump and LGBT rights. Interestingly, “Early on, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people seemed to be exempted from Donald Trump’s most inflammatory rhetoric. He was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention LGBT people in his acceptance speech. After his election, he declared same-sex marriage “settled law.” Once in office, he left in place an executive order protecting the federal government’s LGBT employees from discrimination” (Green & Larson, 2017).
However, Trump took a number of actions in the months after being inaugurated that have challenged the level of LGBT protections in the United States. For example,
LGBTQ content [was] removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency. While other federal websites still retained some related content, it appeared that LGBTQ references were the only removals from the White House and State Department sites. At the time, Senator Ben Cardin told NBC News that he found the scrubbing of LGBTQ references “alarming.” On the same day, the Women’s March brings over half a million people to D.C. as nearly 700 “sister marches” take place around the globe” (O’Hara, 2017).
Changes began within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency were noted the following way: ““One hundred days of Trump translates into 100 days of erasure for the LGBTQ community,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis told NBC News. “From the Census exclusion, to rescinding Obama’s guidance for trans youth in schools, and lack of any LGBTQ mentions on the White House website, he has spent the early days of his administration trying to remove us from the very fabric of this country, and we must resist”” (O’Hara, 2017) (See O’Hara, 2017 for more on actions with regards to Trump and LGBT Rights within those first 100 days of his presidency).
In addition, “In July, the president abruptly announced via Twitter that he wanted to bar transgender people from serving in the military, apparently surprising top brass at the Pentagon. That same month, the Justice Department signed a court brief arguing that current anti-discrimination laws do not protect people on the basis of their sexual orientation in the workplace. In February, his administration revoked Obama-era guidance for schools on bathroom and locker room access for transgender students” (Johnson, 2017).
Then, on August 21st, 2017, Trump selected Sam Clovis as the head of the Department of Agriculture. Clovis has in the past said that homosexuality is a choice, and also, that by allowing same-sex marriage, this could lead to legally allowing pedophilia (Kaczynski & LeBlanc, 2017). Here is an excerpt from a 2011 op-ed that Clovis wrote in the Iowa Republican (quoted in CNN), where he said the following:
“Today, there are six protected classes of American citizens who benefit from the history of legal precedents associated with American traditions and the 14th Amendment. Two of these classes—religion and military—have long been established in the traditions of the nation. The other four—race, gender, disability and age—are based on primary characteristics. Primary characteristics are those human features we can generally discern by visual examination—something we can see. Following this logic, the only way to extend 14th Amendment protections to those in the LGBT lifestyles is if these behaviors are genetically mapped or otherwise discernible. The science on this issue seems to be uncertain, and if one followed the arguments from plaintiffs, the issue argued was that these individuals, because of ‘love,’ should be allowed to ‘marry just like opposite-sex couples.’ What is it really? Is this about genetics or about emotions? The stronger case is genetics, but that is not the argument being advanced. If LGBT adherents were genetically predisposed, then one must ask why a segment of the population that constitutes numbers less than one third of those who might be left-handed or one fourth the number who might be blue-eyed or one eighth the number who might be genetically predisposed to obesity should receive 14th Amendment protections when others are not even considered. Certainly left-handers have more to bark about than most. Thus, the argument must be about something other than genetic predisposition.”
Such comments are quite disturbing, and are a disgrace to the LGBTI community. Yet, Clovis has said many more comments that seem to be against LGBT rights (see Kaczynski & LeBlanc, 2017). When “Asked for comment on Clovis’ beliefs surrounding the science of homosexuality, a USDA spokeswoman told CNN: “The Supreme Court settled the issue in 2015.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment” (Kaczynski & LeBlanc, 2017).
Then, on September 8th, 2017, “the Trump administration filed court papers siding with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration because he said it would violate his religious beliefs. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case this fall” (Johnson, 2017).
On September 28th, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke about Trump’s position towards LGBT rights, saying that there was no “parallel” between him and Roy Moore, who then had just won a runoff for the Republican senate candidacy for the state of Alabama. Moore has a history of comments towards groups like the LGBT and Muslims. For example, he called for outlawing homosexual activity (Gearan, 2017). The full quote reads: “I have not taken a deep dive on every comment that the senator — or the Senate nominee — has made, but I certainly know where the president stands on those issues and wouldn’t see any parallel between the two of them on that front” (Gearan, 2017).
Yet, a day earlier, the Trump Administration, through a Justice Department lawyer (Hashim Mooppan) argued that sexual orientation was not a category that the Congress thought of when they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Larson, 2017). This was being debated “…before a rare full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, comes in one of a handful of employment-discrimination cases that may eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty states protect gay and lesbian workers from bias, and a ruling favorable to the plaintiffs in that court could extend such protections nationwide. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. The plaintiff in the New York case, the estate of former skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, argues that the prohibition of sex-discrimination should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation” (Larson, 2017).