President Donald Trump has “set a low bar” for equal rights in the LGBT community, according to activists.
Over the weekend, rumors circulated that the White House planned to reverse former President Barack Obama’s order that provided some protections for LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace, The New York Times reported. On Monday night the White House released a statement which has not done much to quell the concerns of LGBT rights activists.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement reads. “The president is proud to have been the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
According to The Times, “[The order] uses stronger language than any Republican president has before in favor of equal legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
However, “stronger language” and a statement not to reverse an already-existing order does not make the president a champion of LGBT rights, activists say.
“Claiming ally status for not overturning the progress of your predecessor is a rather low bar,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin in a statement on Monday. “LGBTQ refugees, immigrants, Muslims and women are scared today, and with good reason. Donald Trump has done nothing but undermine equality since he set foot in the White House.”
LGBT rights have also been left up to question since Trump’s team did not include a page regarding the LGBT community on the new White House website. A report called “Advancing LGBT Workplace Rights” also disappeared from the Department of Labor website. Trump has previously said he opposes same-gender marriage, and while he previouslysaidhe doesn’t think sexual orientation “should be a reason” to fire someone, he did not propose a plan to end LGBT workplace discrimination.
LGBT discrimination remains a problem. According to a 2015 HRC poll, 63 percent of LGBT people have reported experiencing discrimination. And a 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that 58 percent of LGBT Americans have been subjected to jokes or slurs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Donald Trump has left the key question unanswered will he commit to opposing any executive actions that allow government employees, taxpayer-funded organizations or even companies to discriminate” Griffin questioned.
Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal, a legal organization that works for LGBT people and people with HIV, issued a statement on Sunday, rejecting Trump’s attempt to make “pawns” of the LGBT community.
“LGBT people refuse to be pawns in Mr. Trump’s dangerous and inhumane game,” Tiven said. “We utterly reject his discrimination against Muslims in the guise of concern trolling for LGBT rights. If he really wants to help LGBT people, he can pledge to retain the Executive Orders that help protect us and to nominate a Supreme Court justice who supports equal treatment of all regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Omar Mateen, a Muslim who was born in the United States, shot and killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, last year. In response, Trump further reiterated his earlier calls for the surveillance of mosques around the country. He also used this platform to insist that he wanted to protect the LGBT community more than his then Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton because he wanted to prevent Muslims who wanted to hurt LGBT people from entering the country.
The Pew report found that 76 percent of LGBT Americans consider the Republican Party “unfriendly toward” LGBTs. While Trump may be reportedly more progressive than many of his past fellow Republicans when it comes to LGBT rights, this does not say much. In June 2015 Trump said he supports “traditional marriage.” And after going back and forth about his stance on North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom bill,” he ultimately said the decision should be left “with the state.”
Also leaving Trump’s record on LGBT rights up for debate is who he has chosen to put in positions of power.
“If he’s truly an ally, then why did he choose as his Vice President a person who passed one of the most anti-LGBTQ laws in the nation, or an Attorney General nominee who says the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling was an ‘effort to secularize, by force and intimidation'” HRC’s Griffin questioned. “Donald Trump talks a big game on his support for LGBTQ people, yet he has filled his cabinet with people who have literally spent their careers working to demonize us and limit our rights.”
Vice President Mike Pence has a long history of battling against LGBT rights. While governor of Indiana he signed a “Religious Freedom Bill,” which allows businesses to discriminate under the guise of “religious freedom.”
In November Trump named Ken Blackwell a man with a long anti-LGBT history his domestic policy adviser. Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council (FRC), classified by theSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)as a hate group that “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.”
And Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, also has not been, to say the least, an LGBT community ally. While serving in the Senate he repeatedly voted against bills for LGBT rights, including voting for a constitutional ban of same-gender marriage and against including sexual orientation under the definition of a hate crime.