Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Image courtesy of Carlo Allegri/Reuters
*Please note: the views expressed in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of THEBIGGERPICTURE as a whole.*
The Bigger Picture (London) — Donald Trump’s administration is anti-LGBTQ. Although Trump claims to support LGBTQ people, his actions throughout his tenure as President suggest otherwise. In February 2019, Richard Grenell, the openly gay U.S ambassador to Berlin, announced a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in countries around the world on behalf of Trump’s administration. In September, Trump mentioned the plan in a speech for the United Nations (the first time he had spoken about the campaign outside of Twitter). Thus far, Trump has not elaborated on the details of the campaign (for instance, which countries he claims to be ‘working with’), and whether this commitment will be honoured remains to be seen. Trump has also claimed that gay people ‘love his campaign’, citing an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans (advocates for lesbian and gay inclusion) as proof. However, in the 2018 midterm elections, only 17% of LGBTQ people voted for their district’s Republican House candidate. Such low rates of support prove that although Trump pays lip service to the LGBTQ community and claims to be acting to decriminalise homosexuality worldwide, his treatment of the LGBTQ community in his own country suggests otherwise. It is also important to note that although Trump’s regime negatively impacts the LGBTQ community as a whole, transgender people are, thus far, the group most affected.
In June 2019, Trump rejected requests from U.S embassies around the world to fly LGBTQ pride flags on official embassy flagpoles. Amongst the cities whose embassies were denied permission was Berlin - since Richard Grenell is supposed to lead the U.S campaign to decriminalise homosexuality around the world, this makes the incongruence between Trump’s words and actions even more apparent.
This is but one indication of an anti-LGBTQ government. Trump’s administration has removed several protections and rights for trans people that were introduced during Obama’s tenure as President. Trans people have been banned from serving in the military, and trans inmates are now housed by their biological sex rather than their gender. Guidance that helped schools enforce Title IX - a civil rights law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex in education - was pulled, leaving trans students unprotected. Legislation has also been proposed that would allow healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, especially trans people. Khloe Rios was forcibly removed from a bar in Los Angeles with other trans women after being harassed by a straight couple last August; she later said to The Guardian of the exacerbated hate against her community under Trump’s tenure as President, “I have no words … I feel very defeated. It’s scary.”
On the 14th of August, the U.S Department of Labor proposed a rule that supposedly protects ‘conscience and religious freedom’ - in practise, this will allow organisations to discriminate against people belonging to protected categories, including LGBTQ people, so long as they can justify that it was based on religious beliefs.
It is highly likely that not only has Trump attempted to manipulate the public into believing that he supports LGBTQ people, but that he has succeeded. According to a poll by Reuters/Ipso, almost half of Americans incorrectly believe that LGBTQ people are a protected group under federal law. On the contrary, LGBTQ people have never been protected under federal law - in fact, it is legal for LGBTQ people to be fired on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity in 30 states, and robust protections for LGBTQ people only exist in 17 states.
The cases of three LGBTQ people who had been fired from their jobs as a result of workplace discrimination was brought to the Supreme Court this autumn, sparking a fierce debate about whether Title VII - the law that prohibits discrimination ‘because of [an] individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin’ - can be interpreted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Prior to a Supreme Court hearing on the 8th of October, a group of eight Republican senators and 40 congressmen stated that, “..Title VII’s sex discrimination provision prohibits discrimination because of an individual’s sex; it does not prohibit discrimination because of an individual’s actions, behaviours, or inclinations.”
‘...actions, behaviours, or inclinations….’ Words to that effect have been historically used to undermine LGBTQ individuals and imply that their identities are invalid or a ‘lifestyle choice’, making that statement extremely dubious.
Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, who has become well-known for fighting for gender equality throughout her career as a lawyer, commented that “no one ever thought sexual harassment was encompassed by discrimination on the basis of sex back in ’64...And now we say, ’Of course, harassing someone, subjecting her to terms and conditions of employment she would not encounter if she were a male, that is sex discrimination. But it wasn’t recognised.”
The Supreme Court hearing has yet to be concluded. LGBTQ people becoming a protected group under federal law would be a huge victory, but the Republicans will doubtlessly do anything within their power to prevent a successful conclusion.
Despite appearances, Donald Trump has proven himself nothing but hostile towards the LGBTQ community through his actions, and the fact that he dares pay lip service to the very community that he oppresses is appalling. No matter what he claims to believe, we must remember the actions that he has taken against the LGBTQ community thus far and do all that we can to ensure that Trump is not allowed to continue his injustices against LGBTQ people.