Justice

Why the Trump Presidency Has LGBT Americans Stressed Out

For many Americans, the selecting of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president was a shock. But for LGBT Americans, his presidency is more than a culture shift: it signals the potential stripping of their rights by conservative leadership.

While Trump has promised to protect LGBT citizens, the claim is questionable given the 2016 Republican platform.

The platform hopes to repeal the marriage equality ruling, allow discrimination as a result of religious beliefs, and ensure “the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children,” a simple code for conversion therapy. The platform was so drastic that it shocked the first openly gay Republican platform committee member.

Additionally, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has a long, successful record of opposing queer rights.

He has opposed measures to expand hate crimes to include LGBT persons. He opposed the repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, likening the act to “social experimentation” regarding policy. He even claimed that same sex marriage would lead to “societal collapse.” It’s not difficult to see how this point of view could ooze into the White House, eventually changing everyday life for queer Americans.

With Republicans in power in the presidency, House, and Senate, should LGBT Americans worry about their rights? Yes and no.

ATTN: reached out to Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda Legal’s Senior Counsel and Law and Policy Director, for an explanation of what President-elect Trump means for queer communities and what people need to do today to preserve their rights.

"The consequences of this election are enormous,” she explained. “I don’t mean to suggest anything other than that. The positions in the Republican Party platform and the positions that Vice President-elect Pence has taken [with] some of the rhetoric we heard in this campaign cycle are profoundly alarming and, at the same time, I want to stress that there are laws in place. They did not evaporate with this election.”

In short, rights secured by Supreme Court decisions are safe. That means marriage equality remains.

“The freedom to marry is not about to evaporate for same sex couple,” Pizer said, pointing to how the decision further tightened the knot around similar rulings like the 2013 striking down of the Defense Of Marriage Act, the 2003 striking down of Texas sodomy laws, and the 1996 striking down of Colorado Amendment 2.

However, when Donald Trump takes office he could withdraw presidential measures taken by President Obama to protect minority persons, for example, Executive Order 11246, a measure to protect LGBT workers from discrimination. “Once President Trump is sworn in, he will have the power to do some things, to issue some executive memorandums — the presidential memoranda, for example — to withdraw executive orders that are in place.”

The real concern is for transgender and gender nonconforming persons, particularly students.

Pizer and Lambda Legal have noticed that there has been a greater call for help from trans students during the election. “We have received many calls from young people who are terrified because they have been targeted...It is a real problem," Pizer explained. "People are feeling that the atmosphere is hostile and that some of the attitudes expressed during the Trump campaign appear to have emboldened people to express some really hostile and discriminatory views.”

“We are stressing, to everyone, that important laws are in place and that’s true of the constitution and that’s true of civil rights protections that are in federal law. Those laws do protect people,” She continued.

Where Pizer is concerned is not with Trump: it’s with conservative Christians like Vice President-elect Pence. “There’s an enormous concern that this administration with Mike Pence pushing this point may seek to create broad religious exemptions to laws that otherwise apply,” Pizer noted. Like the Republican platform suggests, these laws would allow discrimination to occur by coding it as “religious freedom.”

So what should LGBT people do to prepare for President Trump?

As Lambda Legal’s invaluable post-election FAQ highlights, there are things that should be done now.

The most pressing measures must be taken by transgender persons to ensure one’s gender identity is documented. “They may want to get a passport from the federal government now,” Pizer said. “The current administration has changed a range of policies to make that easier, so that people’s identity documents can match who they are.” She stressed the same measures for state documents like social security records.

For married couples, Pizer doesn’t worry that their marriages will be nullified but she does suggest managing care in writing. “It is always a good idea for same sex couples — and different sex couples and everybody — to put in writing the issues that each of us have about medical care,” she said, highlighting that these documents should note “medical decisions for us, if we’re unable to speak for ourselves.”

For same sex parents — or opposite sex parents who are unmarried — she suggests second parent adoption as a means to clearly define relationships with a child. Why? Because it “creates a court judgment confirming that the other mother is a legal parent.” This legal measure does cost money but it offers higher security and cross-state protection.

Remember: LGBT allies are vital too.

As obvious as it sounds, LGBT persons like any minority group need the support of allies. Pizer encourages people to “speak out for equality and protecting folks who are vulnerable to discrimination, to bullying, and other types of abuse.”

Most pressing is for allies to hold local school boards accountable for policies and practices that protect LGBT students. “I keep coming back to students because many school administrators and teachers don’t recognize or take responsibility to stop bullying and to make classrooms into welcoming places,” Pizer said. This is important in order to ensure transgender and gender nonconforming students “are treated equally and have the same educational opportunities as other students.”

Lastly, help civil rights advocacy groups by volunteering. Pizer knows this very well having worked elections before at Lambda Legal. “We anticipate that our workloads are going to skyrocket now,” she said.

While LGBT Americans may be concerned, the future isn’t completely dark.

One thing to ease the mind is that Trump may not have LGBT issues on his mind. “We don’t know what his priorities will be,” Pizer said. She also noted that President-elect Trump’s campaign website didn’t explicitly target LGBT persons — and that’s a relief.

Ultimately it’s important to keep in mind that LGBT persons are protected. How? Because our nation was designed to protect minorities. “The U.S. Constitution applies in this country,” Pizer said. “It contains essential protections for all of us, certainly protections that apply to the federal government and limit the kinds of discriminatory actions that may be taken by the federal government.”

“We stand ready to use all of our resources to enforce those guarantees,” she added.