After the announcement of Donald Trump as the President-elect, many in the LGBT community worried the effects and impact the future administration would hold. While Trump himself has rarely spoken on the issue of LGBT rights and freedoms, the general rhetoric used by him and his supporters have indicated that his platform and administration could potentially roll back on LGBT rights. Also, the current prospects for Trump’s cabinet and transitional team, including Newt Gingrich and Ken Blackwell have strongly suggested anti-LGBT policies and bills have a greater chance of making their way to the President’s desk.
Yesterday, Ken Blackwell was named a top domestic policy advisor for Trump’s transitional team into the White House. Previously the secretary of state for Ohio, Blackwell is a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council, an organization named a hate based group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has previously stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman only, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are a person’s choice that can be changed, going so far as to compare it to being an arsonist or a kleptomaniac. Other members named to Trump’s team have included Ed Meese from the Heritage Foundation and Kay Cole James who served as the senior vice president of the Family Research Council. The Heritage Foundation has played a key role in drafting a list of potential cabinet members. Meese has also been a proponent of Mike Pence’s anti-LGBT religious freedom law in Indiana.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence could not be a worse option for LGBT Americans. In 2015 Pence, as governor of Indiana, signed into law a religious freedom bill that overruled non-discrimination bills aimed at protecting LGBT individuals. The result of this act was a national outcry against the Governor’s decision to move forward with the bill, creating one of the biggest controversies of Pence’s political career. The religious freedom bill, and several in other states that followed, was aimed at allowing religious-based companies to discriminate against LGBT individuals and conducting service with them. This extends to housing, where LGBT individuals can be kicked out or denied a home on the basis of their identity.
Other affairs regarding Mike Pence on LGBT issues include:
- Previous proposals to divert funds from much needed HIV/AIDS prevention to gay conversion groups.
- Support for a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman.
- Endorsing the GOP platform which included the endorsement of “Ex-Gay Conversion Therapy.”
The message sent with the selection of Mike Pence as Vice President was that LGBT rights were not a concern, and possibly that LGBT rights are expendable. The culmination of each individual described plus any future members of Trump’s administration that may share similar views only solidify and validate the concerns and fears the LGBT community holds. If these are the men directing domestic policy, LGBT rights will be among the first on the chopping block. And the reality of greater transgender rights becomes more and more unlikely with the Supreme Court likely to see an ultra-conservative judge appointed by Trump.
And the effects don’t stop with domestic policies. A large responsibility that the White House handles is directing foreign policy and implementing said policy through the State Department.
Under Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, LGBT rights and freedoms took a major step forward from the previous administrations. Transgender Americans were able to obtain a passport that reflected the gender identity for which they identified with, and in 2015 the creation of the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons marked a pivotal moment in the United States’ effort to protect rights abroad.
A pro-LGBT foreign policy is highly needed to help advance LGBT rights and laws within United Nations. Though the US currently does not sit on the rotating human rights council, it’s standing on the global stage gives it tremendous influence in protecting the community. This election comes at a moment where the advancements of such rights are coming under fire by conservative states. Those being nominated for cabinet position have strong anti-LGBT histories and have the capacity to not only roll back LGBT policies but to redirect the nation’s foreign policy away from the gradual LGBT inclusion.
According to recent reports by NBC and Reuters, a coalition of African states within the United Nations have moved to halt progress on investigating human rights violations against the global LGBT community. Currently, being open about one’s sexuality and/or gender identity is considered a crime in 73 countries. Those opposed to the United Nations backing LGBT rights have commonly cited religious and cultural reasons for denying these rights, despite historical accounts of same-sex marriage and attraction being permitted in Islamic culture and religion.
“But Trump has stated that he will do everything to protect the LGBT community!” The President-elect, on the contrary, has not stated explicitly measures he plans to take or reassured that previous laws and rulings will remain in place. Rather, the promise of protecting LGBT Americans comes with the message of defeating “radical Islam” and barring Muslims, especially refugees, from entering the country.
Those who aim to protect human rights and civil liberties do not scapegoat other minority groups to prove their campaign, as Trump did. LGBT issues permeate across a broad range of communities, from those at the top holding significant social privilege to those at the bottom facing the brunt of failed policies and hate-fueled violence. Those near the bottom, trans black women and refugees for example, are the most vulnerable under Trump’s administration and proposed policies.
This faux support fails to take in account the thousands of LGBT refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East or repressive governments such as Iran, many of whom face harassment and death threats even inside refugee camps. Earlier this year, Muhammed Wisam Sankari, a Gay Syrian man, was brutally murdered in Turkey shortly after fleeing violence from his own country. Despite Turkey serving as a safer option for LGBT individuals compared to their home nations, the government there has failed to take steps to protect the community and prevent incitement. While certain identities and statuses take precedent in the UN refugee relocation program, the process continues to serve as one of the most rigorous in the world with an average completion time of 2 years.
Even within certain countries and refugee areas, LGBT individuals face higher rates of discrimination, violence, and lack of health care than their straight counterparts. A complete shutdown of accepting refugees from Muslim states, no less banning Muslims altogether, goes against the core principle of protecting the LGBT community and further jeopardizes their safety and health.
Trump has also shown eagerness to meet with several world leaders, including President Sisi of Egypt, Vladimir Putin, and Benjamin Netanyahu who have prominent anti-LGBT records. Over the course of both Sisi’s and Putin’s time in office, the conditions and rights of the LGBT community have tremendously deteriorated, with activists and individuals detained, tortured, and brutally murdered. Israel, while hosting some of the most pro-LGBT policies in the Middle East, has repeatedly harmed and attacked LGBT Palestinians and migrants, including blackmailing them into being state informants. The current administration has failed to address the intersectionality of religion, nationality, and sexual orientation that separates a large populous from equal treatment and protection.
This concern also extends to Mexico, Latin America, and those detained at the US border. Because of an unsafe environment towards the LGBT community, individuals traveling through the region are often subjected to high rates of violence from both society and government forces. And a lack of government infrastructure or rights groups specializing with this community has created an enormous gap, leaving LGBT individuals vulnerable. Migrants and refugees at the US border are not treated any better. Despite the Obama administration ordering ICE to make reforms in regards to LGBT detainees, the group continues to detain an exceedingly high amount of LGBT individuals.
According to information obtained by the Center for American Progress through a FOIA request, ICE tended to detain LGBT individuals at a much higher rate than recommended. The group uses an automated system, Risk Classification Assessment, to decide whether to release said individual or keep them detained. Factors, like LGBT identities and vulnerabilities outlined in the DHS’ enforcement priorities, tend to increase the priority for release. When the RCA recommended a detention rate of 18% of LGBT individuals passing through the system, ICE officials overrode the recommendation to 90% of individuals detained. Detainment of LGBT individuals has repeatedly resulted in their loss of safety and exposure to harassment from inmates and ICE officials, and an overall violation of basic human and LGBT rights.
For the Trump administration to assure safety and civil rights to the LGBT community, it must introduce policies that address violence towards the community both domestically and internationally. These policies cannot exclude the most vulnerable segments of the community, including but not limited to women of color, Muslims, refugees, youth, and undocumented immigrants. The administration must also name cabinet members who intend to uphold equality for all individuals and guarantee the protection of the community from harm, forced conversion therapy, exclusion to health resources, and discrimination. It also cannot stand idly by when acts of violence are committed against the LGBT community, nor encourage such acts and rhetoric to continue.
The future gives so many within this community anxiety beyond measure, and for good reason. There has been little mention of protections, and those building up the White House are unifying some of the most reprehensible names known to LGBT individuals. This group is worried things will change for the worst, and hollow messages of reassurances will not diminish that anxiety. Actions speak louder than words.
Whatever happens in the future, the LGBT community must stand strong, united, and work diligently towards a safe and bright tomorrow.
Photo Credit: NBC News