January 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
LGBT advocates plan to ‘defy’ Trump
Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in Friday as the 45th president. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

With the stage set — literally — for the inauguration on Friday of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, LGBT advocates fearing a roll back of progress are bracing for the change and see little hope of advancement under the new administration.

The list of those who have pledged to boycott the inauguration — including gay U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) — continues to grow as the president-elect remains defiant on Twitter and said it “is turning out to be even bigger than expected.”

Similar to the boycott of the inauguration, LGBT advocates are taking a hands-off approach to Trump and anticipating a possible battle on preserving progress after he takes office. After all, Trump during his campaign assumed anti-LGBT positions, such as support for the First Amendment Defense Act  and North Carolina’s House Bill 2 and a pledge to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court judges in the mold of the late anti-gay U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

Moreover, many of his Cabinet choices have anti-LGBT histories, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s choice for U.S. attorney general who voted against LGBT rights measures in Congress, and Ben Carson, who has called LGBT people “abnormal” and even during his confirmation hearing derided LGBT rights as “extra rights.” (At the same time, Trump last week appointed Anthony Scaramucci, a Republican hedge fund manager who supports LGBT rights, for an outreach position in the White House.)

In an email blast to supporters ahead of the inauguration, the Human Rights Campaign has launched a new “defy” logo — converting its equal sign symbol into an “e” — urging the LGBT community to “defy” Trump if he takes action that would harm LGBT people. Among the items on which they’d seek to defy Trump are Cabinet secretaries who would “treat us like we’re less than other people” or the appointment of judges who would roll back LGBT progress.

JoDee Winterhof, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, said her organization will take the opportunity to advance LGBT rights wherever it can be found, but sees little hope of working with Trump.

“Whether in state legislatures around the country or Congress, we will work with members of either party who believe that LGBTQ people should be able to live free from fear of discrimination and with full legal protections,” Winterhof said. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Mike Pence campaigned against LGBTQ equality and have been assembling an anti-equality cabinet from top-to-bottom. We hope that changes.”

Already, LGBT voices are emerging in the greater progressive pushback against Trump. Participants in the Women’s March on Washington planned for the day after the inauguration on Saturday include the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said “we don’t have full information yet on the new administration,” but is prepared for a fight and pledged to stand in solidarity with the progressive movement.

“President-elect Trump is filling his administration with anti-LGBT extremists, so we are not hopeful,” Keisling said. “We do know that we will be vigilant and assertive. We will hold them to following the law and administrative procedures. We know that our greatest tool will be solidarity with other organizations and other movements — unflinching solidarity.”

Keisling said the transgender movement has grown significantly in a short amount of time and won’t turn back even with Trump in the White House.

“Ours is a movement and an organization than has grown so much in 15 years,” Keisling said. “We will do both offense and offensive-oriented defense. We have not come this far to only come this far.”

Given Trump’s campaign positions, many LGBT groups are skeptical he’ll advance LGBT rights, but nonetheless signaled a willingness to work together to achieve any shared goals.

Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, said he intends to reach out to the Trump administration because sharing the stories of LGBT people would be the best way to preserve progress.

“As an organization whose founding principles include the belief that equal treatment for all LGBT people can only be achieved through bipartisan collaboration, we will work with whoever we need to in order to ensure that LGBT Americans are protected from discrimination,” McTighe said. “Since the start of the transition we’ve been working through all of our channels to engage with this administration, advocate for our positions and ensure that the administration takes the time to meet with LGBT people, families and supportive businesses to listen to the personal stories of how their policies could impact LGBT Americans. We plan to continue that strategy going forward.”

McTighe said the goals of his organization are the same as they’ve always been to advance rights, but consist of making clear any rollback would be unacceptable.

“Our primary goal is demonstrating the urgent need to preserve existing LGBT protections and to showcase the real-world impact any rollbacks would have on real LGBT people and their families,” McTighe said. “This includes the positive impact of existing federal executive orders, the harms of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act and the economic and business case for why LGBT people should be treated equally.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to take the Trump administration to court for any attempt to undermine civil liberties — whether it be undermining protections for Muslims, young undocumented immigrants or LGBT people.

Ian Thompson, legislative director for the ACLU, said his organization is “prepared to meet with the Trump administration to discuss policy proposals” including LGBT rights, but is skeptical of being able to come to an agreement.

“We will not compromise by settling for something less than full equality,” Thompson added. “We will vigorously oppose any effort by the Trump administration to roll back or undermine the gains for LGBT people in recent years. If necessary, we’re fully prepared to bring legal challenges to prevent such moves.”

The Log Cabin Republicans issued an email blast declaring the Trump transition team has asked the organization to prepare a brief on why the president-elect should preserve President Obama’s executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said the invite came about during talks with the transition team in which his organization made clear its No. 1 priority is preserving the executive order.

“In conveying this in my ongoing conversations with the Trump transition team, they suggested preparing a document outlining the reasons why maintaining the EO makes for good policy, and we took them up on that offer,” Angelo said.

Log Cabin Republicans was set on Wednesday to present the transition team with the white paper along with a petition of individuals who support the directive. Angelo said the petition had around 800 names.

Although Log Cabin declined to endorse Trump during the election, citing anti-LGBT positions the president-elect had taken, Angelo said his organization is prepared to work with the president-elect after he takes office.

“I speak with the Trump transition team several times a week — and have been for months now,” Angelo said. “We always said that if Donald Trump won the election we would support him and work with his administration, and we are doing exactly that.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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