The LGBTQ Future is Grim, No Matter What Trump Says
So Donald Trump says marriage equality is settled. I know a lot of you are looking desperately for a reassuring sign or a bit of positive news given the gloomy mood of liberal America. But we shouldn’t take that at his word and here’s why:
You know what else is settled by Supreme Court rulings: Abortion, and by 43 years now. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from a strategy of step-by-step role back since Roe vs Wade. There’s no reason to think they won’t try a similar tactic against Obergefell vs Hodges and they will control the direction of the Supreme Court probably for decades to come.
We should also take Trump’s words themselves with a grain of salt. Obviously he says a lot of contradictory things. I think, above all, Trump holds a lot of positions, including ones on LGBTQ rights, as negotiable. They can be traded away for whatever personal advantage he is seeking at any given moment. Meaning he will use them as a bargaining chip, probably to re-secure evangelical Christian support by 2020. This is the same reason Mike Pence is the Vice President, and it’s not because of a stellar record as governor. Trump WILL appoint arch-conservatives to the Supreme Court.
That being said, an outright overturn of marriage equality is not likely in the near future, and not because of anything Trump says or doesn’t say. The Supreme Court operates with regard to precedent and usually doesn’t overturn one it has recently set. Instead, conservatives will try a strategy of rolling back the benefits of marriage equality. Maybe LGBTQ marriages won’t have federal tax benefits. Maybe employers won’t have to treat our marriages the same way for insurance purposes. Maybe religious hospitals won’t have to honor them for visitation rights or end of life directives. Maybe we won’t have the same immigration rights for our spouses.
These are all speculative things of course. But we should never underestimate the ability or desire of conservative Americans to come up with complicated schemes to take away our rights bit by bit. Just look at some of the attempts to shut down clinics that provide abortion through petty regulation. This clinic doesn’t have big enough closets. Or wide enough hallways. For the “safety” of our women, shut it down.
And that’s just marriage equality, which is not the end all be all of LGBTQ rights. Remember when Obama extended employment protection to LGBTQ Americans who work for federal government contractors? That was done by executive order, so those protections are probably gone.
We will see a federal bill to enshrine the rights of people to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans for “religious” reasons land on Trumps desk in the next few years. It’s probably being written right now. And remember, our rights are negotiable. Several states already have this and their ranks are likely to grow. We were counting on there being liberal judges to block these at appellate and Supreme Court levels, but Trump will be filling judicial vacancies with conservatives.
States like Texas are pushing draconian laws that ensure that employment protections aren’t granted to LGBTQ Americans and even overruling ordinances that big Texas cities like Houston have had in place for years now. These will pass, be signed into law, and there won’t be a liberal judiciary to rule them discriminatory.
And now we come to transgender rights, which I saved for last because this is the bleakest area and the hardest to talk about. I make no exaggeration when I say transgender Americans are facing an existential threat. From emboldening states to pass transgender bathroom exclusion laws to staffing the federal bureaucracy, the Trump administration will make basic life more difficult for transgender Americans.
I have no doubt that transgender Americans will lose title vii and title ix protections they have been recently granted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education. They will lose discrimination protection in healthcare and education when Trump staffs these departments with far right ideologues. Imagine being denied the healthcare you need because a healthcare provider doesn’t agree with your gender identity. The Obama administration quietly made strides in how the federal government classifies and handles gender identity in a whole variety of areas, but a Trump administration can easily undo these and will likely do so if there is a deal to be made.
Trump has said he doesn’t care which bathroom transgender people use, but has also said he supports North Carolina’s HB 2 bathroom exclusion law. In short, transgender rights are probably the most negotiable of all, even if Donald Trump personally doesn’t care which bathroom they use.
I hope that you have stayed with me and read to the end. These are dark times we are about to enter. I’m not saying we can’t hope for the best, but I do think we must temper our outlook with a dose of reality, even if it is grim.
If you have stuck around, I invite a discussion about how to move forward. What are your thoughts?