Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Battlegrounds for LGBT Rights Under Trump

As I have indicated in a number of posts, the inauguration of Donald Trump will set in play numerous assaults on the rights and dignity of LGBT Americans.  Without sufficient mobilization of LGBT individuals and our allies, we are likely to the enactment of license to discriminate laws at the state level and a broad reaching denigration of LGBT rights and protections at the federal level under the deliberately disingenuously named "First Amendment Defense Act" which would allow individuals, businesses and even government employees to discriminate at will against LGBT citizens merely by claiming that to do otherwise offends their religious beliefs.  Thankfully, the assault against LGBT citizens will dovetail with the larger Republican assault on women's reproductive rights and the social safety net, particularly in the realm of healthcare as the GOP moves to fulfill a long held dream of voucherizing Medicare and making draconian cuts to Medicaid.  These efforts will make LGBT citizens, women, the elderly and even health care providers and hospital systems allies in resisting the GOP onslaught.  A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at the coming battle grounds and what must be done in the Age of Trump.  Here are some article excerpts:
As Inauguration Day nears, and as our new, orange-tinted reality sets in, it behooves all Americans who believe in fairness and equality to take stock of what we’re up against — because that’s how we’ll be able to resist it.
On the campaign trail, Trump hurled insults at groups which, combined, represent a vast majority of Americans. He insulted women, Muslims, Mexicans and Latinos, African-Americans, people of color, members of the press, people with disabilities, and career politicians whom he denounced as “crooked.”
That means it’s not at all hyperbolic to issue a warning call to each of those groups who will, in all likelihood, have their freedom targeted by the incoming administration.
But even though the President-elect was relatively quiet on LGBT issues during the campaign trail (aside from a couple mangled acronyms he managed to spit out and a lukewarm response to marriage equality), his cabinet appointments make clear that we cannot afford to “wait and see” just how Trump’s team dismantles LGBT rights. Instead, we must use the resources at hand to anticipate the onslaught we are about to step into — giving us the best chance of emerging with dignity, sanity, and faith in this American experiment.
Prepare to Oppose the First Amendment (Defense Act)First and foremost, the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) is all but certain to become law. Although the precise language has yet to be seen in this year’s Congress, the text of the bill introduced in the 114th Congress sought to prohibit the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action” against a person (defined to include for-profit and nonprofit corporations) who “acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” The bill offered no similar protections for other views about marriage or sexual relations.
FADA is arguably the clearest and most present danger for LGBT Americans, particularly because it exemplifies the ways in which the bedrock principle of “religious freedom” has been weaponized to block the advance of LGBT equality.
[B]arring some truly unexpected outbreak of empathy in the newly empowered Republican Party, it’s safe to assume the sweeping legislation will become law early on in Trump’s presidency. The president-elect has signaled his support for the bill, promising Catholics in a September statement that he will sign the bill into law. Once FADA becomes law (and perhaps before), it’s reasonable to assume similar “turn away the gays” bills will be introduced in state legislatures, likely under the guise of “religious freedom.”
Take Care of Our Health CareLike most of Trump’s cabinet nominees and advisers, the potential Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, has a long history of opposing LGBT-inclusive policies. Price, specifically, is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, and is expected to be a key figure in the yet-to-be-announced plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. And Price is no friend to the gays. According to LGBT media watchdog GLAAD’s “Trump Accountability Project,” the Georgia Republican scored a zero (out of 100) on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Equality Scorecard, voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and in favor of amending the Constitution to ban marriage equality. More relevant to this discussion and Price’s potential tenure as the nation’s chief healthcare official, though, is the fact that he has defended false equivalencies between pedophilia and homosexuality as nothing more than harmless “Christian beliefs regarding proper sexual ethics.”
But what about the millions of Americans who aren’t transgender? Well, any of those citizens who have a uterus or plan to make their own decisions about when or if they want children need to pay attention, as the National LGBTQ Task Force’s executive director Rea Carey explained when Price’s nomination was announced. “Let’s be quite clear: if confirmed, Price’s decisions will impact the health and social services of millions of people — especially the most vulnerable populations who rely upon access to quality, affordable, culturally competent care. If confirmed, Tom Price would steer HHS in a dangerous direction that’s motivated by profit and the desire to control our bodies.”
Get Ready to Fight the Department of JusticeIn his excellent piece for the Winter 2017 issue of The American Prospect, former Justice Department attorney and current University of Michigan law professor Samuel R. Bagenstos raised a terrifying possibility: President Trump’s Department of Justice may use the muscle that agency developed under Obama to suppress voting rights, privatize education, and strip away existing civil rights protections.
If Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is confirmed, the fate of American civil rights law is effectively sealed, given that Sessions was considered too racist to be a federal judge in the ‘80s. Naturally, Sessions has also consistently opposed LGBT rights, and could even use his sway as Attorney General to try to convince the Supreme Court to reconsider marriage equality.
[A] generous, inclusive interpretation of civil rights law is unlikely to continue in a Trump administration. In fact, Bagenstos warns, where LGBT people have found an ally in the DOJ for the past eight years, we may now find a powerful foe. Bagenstos aptly points to G.G. v. Glouchester County School Board, the case out of Virginia where a transgender boy sued his school for the right to use the boy’s bathroom, after the school barred him from using the appropriate facilities on campus. . . . That case is currently pending before the Supreme Court, and could be heard by a full panel of justices — including a Trump appointee.
But the battle is just beginning, Bagenstos writes: . . . there is a substantial prospect that the Civil Rights Division will take an affirmatively anti-LGBT-rights position and intervene to make religious-freedom or free-speech arguments on behalf of the defendants in LGBT discrimination cases brought under state laws.
Which brings us to the final and overarching point of how to agitate for equality in Trump’s America:
Get to Your StatehousesWhile it may seem counter-intuitive to focus a national resistance on regional or state offices, the truth is that local elections matter, and local politicians are often easier to access than high-ranking administration officials. So yes, participate in the Women’s March on Washington if you feel called to, and phone-bank the hell out of every preposterous nominee Trump and the Republicans riding his coattails offer. But also participate in Lobby Days organized by your favorite local advocacy group, and make it a priority to meet your elected officials. If you feel comfortable doing so, introduce them to your family, and force them to look into the faces of the real people their decisions will impact. And when lawmakers try to pull a fast one, take a page from the good people of North Carolina and shout and yell and disrupt and sit-in until uniformed officers drag you away. And then go back again the next day.
It takes dedication, persistence, and a stubborn refusal to ever back down. It seems only fair that those of us feeling targeted by Trump and the GOP in general return the favor they offered to President Obama, and aim to make Trump a one-term president.
Congressional Republicans essentially wrote the playbook on how to be the most obstructionist, least productive legislative body in American history, so I say we borrow that book and use the tactics right-wingers perfected to defend the messy, complicated, frustrating glory of this country.

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