President Trump acknowledged Pride month via Twitter last week, but his well wishes for the LGBT community fell on skeptical ears following the extensive anti-LGBT actions of his administration.
In just the year since last Pride, the tally of anti-LGBT actions from the Trump administration dwarf the number of good things that have come from his presidency for the LGBT community.
With Pride celebrations underway, the Blade presents a list in no particular order of Trump’s positive and negative actions with direct impact on the LGBT community since 2018’s Pride celebration.
(-) 1. Embracing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling last year in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, many observers saw the decision as limited. After all, justices declined to find the First Amendment right Phillips asserted to refuse to make custom-made wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
But the Trump administration fully embraced the decision as a win for “religious freedom.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the court “rightly concluded” the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “failed to show tolerance and respect” for Phillips’ religious beliefs.
Soon after, the Labor Department issued guidance to ensure enforcement of LGBT non-discrimination rules complied with the ruling’s deference to religious freedom, even though the Trump administration wasn’t required to take that action.
(-) 2. White House meeting with Ginni Thomas
President Trump continues to meet with anti-LGBT activists in the White House, including a recent high-profile discussion with Ginni Thomas, the wife of conservative U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
The New York Times reported Trump met in January with anti-LGBT activists led by Thomas in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. As Trump was reportedly “listening quietly,” members of the group denounced transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
In addition to decrying transgender military service, the anti-LGBT activists said women shouldn’t serve in the military “because they had less muscle mass and lung capacity than men.” They also said the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality is “harming the fabric of the United States” and sexual assault isn’t pervasive in the military, according to the New York Times.
(-) 3. Coming out against the Equality Act
In the same week the U.S. House voted to approve the Equality Act, legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBT discrimination, Trump came out against the bill.
In an exclusive statement to the Blade, a senior administration official said Trump opposes the Equality Act based on unspecified “poison pill” amendments to the legislation.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” the official said via email.
(+) 4. AIDS advisory council restaffed
One year after firing all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without explanation as first reported by the Blade, Trump restaffed the advisory body with 11 new appointees.
Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, and John Wiesman, secretary of health in Washington State, were named as co-chairs for the advisory council. Months later, the Department of Health & Human Services named nine additional members to PACHA from a variety of professions, including the pharmaceutical industry, activism and academia.
(-) 5. Trans military ban implemented
After the U.S. Supreme Court essentially green lighted Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, the Defense Department implemented the policy in April.
Denying the transgender ban is, in fact, a ban, the policy prohibits anyone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery from enlisting in the military and requires anyone who identifies as transgender to serve in their biological sex (which would be a small number of transgender people.) Although transgender people who were already serving openly won an exemption, individuals who are diagnosed in the future with gender dysphoria or obtain transition-related care would be discharged.
(-) 6. Brief against trans protections under Title VII
In a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court not to take up a case seeking clarification on whether anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under federal law, the Trump administration asserted the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly decided transgender people have protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“The court of appeals’ conclusion that gender-identity discrimination categorically constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII is incorrect,” the filing says. “As discussed above, the ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ does not refer to gender identity…The court’s position effectively broadens the scope of that term beyond its ordinary meaning. Its conclusion should be rejected for that reason alone.”
(-) 7. List of anti-LGBT appointments grows
The U.S. Senate continues to confirm Trump’s appointments, many of whom have long anti-LGBT records. The latest will reportedly be former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who once said homosexual acts are “against nature and are harmful to society,” for a position at the Department of Homeland Security
Other confirmations include U.S. District Judge Howard Nielson of Utah, who as an attorney argued a gay judge shouldn’t be able to decide the case against California’s Proposition 8, and U.S. District Judge Chad Readler of Ohio, who as acting assistant U.S. attorney general penned his name to briefs in favor of the transgender military ban and against LGBT protections under Title VII.
(+) 8. But a few are from the LGBT community
A handful of Trump’s appointments are from the LGBT community. Among them is former Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper, whom Trump appointed to a senior position at the State Department for political-military affairs. The Senate confirmed Cooper in April.
Other new LGBT appointments are Mary Rowland, a lesbian with ties to the LGBT group Lambda Legal whom Trump named to a federal judgeship in Illinois; and Patrick Bumatay, a gay federal prosecutor whom Trump named for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. Both nominations are pending before the Senate.
(-) 9. Draconian anti-trans memo leaked
An explosive report in the New York Times last year exposed a planned memo within the Department of Health & Human Services that would effectively erase transgender people from federal law, igniting a massive outcry among transgender rights supporters.
The proposal reportedly asserts Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in schools, doesn’t apply to transgender people and calls for government agencies to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of sex “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” A dispute about one’s sex, the New York Times reported, would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
(-) 10. Anti-trans ‘conscience rule’ is final
The memo as described by the Times never came to light, but months later HHS did implement an anti-trans “conscience rule” allowing health care providers to opt out of procedures over which they have religious objections, including abortions or gender reassignment surgery.
Trump announced the rule was final during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on the National Day of Prayer.
(-) 11. HHS seeks to undo trans health rule
HHS wasn’t done. Weeks after the conscience rule was final, the department announced a proposed rule seeking to undo regulations in health care against anti-trans discrimination.
The Obama-era regulations asserted Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars sex discrimination in health care, also covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Under the Trump rule, HHS would disavow those protections. (The Obama-era rule was already enjoined by a federal judge.)
(-) 12. Ending visas for unmarried partners of diplomats
The State Department last year cancelled visas for the unmarried same-sex partners of diplomats to the United States.
By canceling these visas for these partners, the State Department forced these partners to either marry or get out, which complicated matters if these diplomats are from countries where same-sex marriage isn’t legal. At the time of the decision, only 25 countries recognized same-sex marriage.
(-) 13. Proposal to gut trans protections at homeless shelters
Despite assurances from Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson LGBT non-discrimination rules for federally funded housing would remain in place, HUD has proposed a rule that would gut transgender protections at homeless shelters.
The HUD proposal would allow homeless shelters with sex-segregated facilities — such as bathrooms or shared sleeping quarters — to establish policy consistent with state and local laws in which operators consider a range of factors when determining where to place individuals looking to stay, including “religious beliefs.”
(+) 14. Trump announces HIV plan in State of the Union
Trump in his State of the Union address announced an initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, asserting “remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS” in recent years.
“Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach,” Trump said. “My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. We have made incredible strides. Incredible. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.”
The plan seeks to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75 percent within five years, and by 90 percent within 10 years. Efforts will focus on 48 counties, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico and seven states where the epidemic is mostly in rural areas.
(+) 15. And the budget follows through with that request
Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 made good on his pledge in the State of the Union address, seeking $300 million in new funds for domestic HIV programs.
The bulk of the $300 million figure is an additional $140 million requested for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which is a 19 percent increase in its overall budget from fiscal year 2019. The rest is $70 million for the Ryan White Health Care Program, $50 million for PrEP services at HRSA centers and $25 million to screen for HIV and treat Hepatitis C.
(-) 16. But NIH and global AIDS programs slashed
But the same budget sought to slash funds for the National Institutes for Health, which conducts HIV research, and global AIDS programs like PEPFAR. Moreover, the plan sought to make Medicaid a block-grant program, even though 40 percent of people with HIV rely on it. Congress ended up rejecting the cuts, fully funding NIH and global AIDS programs.
(-) 17. Giving Pete Buttigieg nickname of ‘Alfred E. Neuman’
Consistent with his track record of giving his political opponents nicknames, Trump gave an unflattering moniker to Pete Buttigieg, the gay presidential candidate with growing support in the Democratic primary.
Trump dubbed him “Alfred E. Neuman,” the Mad Magazine character famous for the phrase, “What Me Worry?” In a dog whistle that perhaps gay people could hear, Trump said, “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States.”
(+) 18. Recognizing global initiative to end anti-gay laws
In his tweet recognizing June as Pride Month, Trump also acknowledged his global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality. Currently, same-sex relations are illegal in 71 countries.
The project is spearheaded by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Trump administration.
Previously, Trump seemed unaware of the project. Asked about it by reporters, Trump said, “I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”
(-) 19. No State Dept. recognition of Pride Month, IDAHO
In contrast to Trump, the State Department in 2019 issued no statement recognizing Pride Month, nor weeks before did it recognize the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia.
In 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued statements recognizing Pride Month and IDAHO. Coming off a confirmation process in which he was criticized as homophobic, Pompeo said “too many governments continue to arrest and abuse their citizens simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.”
(-) 20. Refusing to recognize birthright of child to gay couple
Consistent with the policy of cracking down on immigration, the Trump administration refused to recognize the birthright citizenship of the son of U.S.-citizen Andrew Dvash-Banks and his Israeli husband Elad Dvash-Banks.
The couple had two twin boys conceived via a surrogate mother in Canada. The State Department, however, required a DNA test to prove the children were related to the couple to provide them U.S. passports. One child, Aiden, was deemed a citizen because he’s the biological son of Andrew, but the other, Ethan, wasn’t because he’s the biological son of Elad.
(-) 21. And appealed a court ruling for the couple
When the couple sued the Trump administration, a court sided with the couple in granting birthright citizenship to Ethan.
However, the State Department refused to accept the decision and appealed the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case remains pending. A mediation document reveals the State Department insists on its policy of “a biological relationship between a U.S. citizen parent and a child born outside the United States” to grant citizenship.
(-) 22. LGBT protections watered-down in USMCA
An initial version of the USMCA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico contained at the behest of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau language a call for countries to adopt policies “against sex-based discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
But Trudeau publicly buckled when asked about his commitment. After additional negotiations with the Trump administration, a footnote was added to USMCA stating Title VII in the United States, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workforce, was sufficient to meet the requirements of the deal.
(-) 23. DOJ’s ‘Religious Liberty Task Force’
Before he was sacked by Trump, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a summit at the Justice Department on religious freedom featuring Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jack Phillips and Catholic leaders.
At the summit, Sessions established the Religious Liberty Task Force. The goal of the task force was to ensure his memo on “religious freedom” — widely seen as guidance in support of anti-LGBT discrimination — was being implemented throughout the federal government.
(+) 24. Hailing PrEP deal with Truvada as ‘great news’
The Department of Health & Human Services reached a deal with Gilead to make PrEP available for generic production one year earlier and to secure a donation of the medication for up to 200,000 individuals each year for up to 11 years.
Trump took to Twitter to hail the agreement: “Great news today: My administration just secured a historic donation of HIV prevention drugs from Gilead to help expand access to PrEP for the uninsured and those at risk. Will help us achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in America!”
(-) 25. Deleting trans employee guidance on OPM website
In a little-noticed development over the holidays, guidance on the Office of Personnel Management’s website for federal workers who are transgender was deleted without explanation.
The Obama-era guidance spelled out the definition of terms for transgender identities and expectations for respecting transgender workers. The guidance ensured transgender people could dress according to their gender identity, be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns and use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
(+) 26. U.S. joins OSCE in calling for Chechnya investigation
Under the Trump administration, the United States joined 15 allied countries at the U.S. Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe in the creation of a probe to investigate alleged anti-gay human rights abuses in Chechnya.
The report concluded, as the United States and human rights organizations long believed, Chechen government officials engaged in human rights violations, including “harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.” Victims were LGBT people, human rights defenders, journalists and members of civil society.
(-) 27. But U.S. didn’t sign U.N. statement against atrocities
Months later, the United States was nowhere to be found on a United Nations statement signed by more than 30 countries calling for a thorough investigation of the Chechnya atrocities. The State Department said the United States didn’t sign because it withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council “and no longer participates in its sessions.”
(-) 28. State Department proposes ‘natural law’ commission
LGBT rights supporters are viewing with skepticism a State Department proposal to create a “natural law” commission, which is set to “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”
The term “natural law” has been used to express condemnation of LGBT identities in religious discourse.
(-) 29. Eliminating LGBT youth data question in foster care
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating requirements for case workers to ask LGBT youth in foster care about their sexual orientation of youth for data collection purposes.
Although the Department of Health & Human Services concluded it was “intrusive and worrisome,” LGBT rights advocates say the questions are necessary to ascertain disparities facing LGBT youth in the foster care and adoption systems.
(-) 30. Trump stands with anti-LGBT adoption agencies
In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump expressed solidarity with religious-affiliated adoption agencies, who are bristling over LGBT non-discrimination requirements to obtain federal funding.
“My administration is working to ensure that faith-based adoption agencies are able to help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs,” Trump said.
(-) 31. And defends Karen Pence teaching at anti-LGBT school
In the same speech, Trump also defended second lady Karen Pence for her decision to teach art at a Christian school in Virginia, which has a policy against employing LGBT teachers or admitting LGBT students.
“She just went back to teaching art classes at a Christian school,” Trump said, “Terrific woman.”