It's now been exactly eight years from one end of the Obama era to the other. The good news is: in that time, America's seen amazing advances for the LGBT community. The bad news: as soon as Donald's inauguration is done, 8 years worth of work could be undone in a matter of days.
I'm not going to list every piece of federal progress that happened under Obama because there have been literally thousands. But let's take a look at some of the big ones, because they're the most vulnerable. For example, Obama signed the Hate Crime Prevention Act right at the start of his administration. Protecting people from bias crime was one of his top priorities, but those protections may not mean much under Donald Trump. That's because the Attorney General has to sign off on federal hate crime prosecutions. And Donald's Attorney General is Jeff Sessions, who said specifically about that act: "I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.”
Doesn't see it? Well there's never been a better time to look -- in just the one month after Donald's election, the SPLC tracked 900 bias incidents.
Fortunately, the incoming president was able to put a stop to them — he said “stop it” on 60 Minutes.
Oh good, that ought to be just as effective as a federal prosecution.
But now let's say that you are the victim of a hate crime, and you wind up in the hospital. Under Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services required that hospitals allow same-sex partners to visit each other, and make medical decisions. And the administration saw to it that the Family and Medical Leave Act applied to LGBTs, so you could take time off of work to care for your partner after they've been bashed.
But Donald's Health and Human Services guy is going to be Tom Price, who seems to think that being gay IS a medical condition. Speaking about gay couples, he said there are "medical health costs" to "activity that is outside the norm," and said that it's too expensive for laws to accommodate same-sex couples.
And soon, your insurance might not accommodate you either. Under The Affordable Care Act, you can't be denied coverage for being gay. But Republicans are already moving to gut that rule -- along with many others -- with their repeal of the ACA. Imagine being denied health coverage just because you're gay. This isn't some made-up scenario: by voting to repeal the ACA, Republicans have already taken steps to make this possible.
Obama also banned discrimination against LGBTs by federal contractors, but Donald says that executive actions like those will be among the first things he repeals. And Obama's Department of Education said that trans students should be able to attend school without discrimination -- but Trump's pick to run the DOE comes from a family that raised millions for groups like Focus on the Family, who said that "transgenderism" is "sexual brokenness."
And look at housing -- Under Obama, Housing and Urban Development issued an Equal Access rule that bans discrimination in public housing. But guess who's Trump's nominee to run HUD? Ben Carson, last seen telling everyone that he isn't qualified to hold public office. He seems to have gotten over that now, and at his confirmation hearing for HUD director, Ben suggested that when it comes to housing, nondiscrimination protections for gays amounts to "extra rights."
So, apparently, being gay disqualifies you from public housing; but if you have zero job qualifications you ARE entitled to public office. Great.
Now what about the big one, marriage? I did a whole video about how Donald’s administration could undo marriage equality. Under Obama, the DOJ helped push the Supreme Court to legalize marriage nationwide. But they didn’t stop there. Afterwards, Obama ordered a review of over a thousand statutes, ensuring marriage equality happened fairly quickly and smoothly, with only a few bumps in the road.
Donald’s administration is packed almost exclusively with people who openly said that gays shouldn’t be allowed marry. I’ve looked, and I haven’t found one person ― not one ― in Donald’s administration who says queer people are entitled to due process and equal protection when it comes to marriage.
They can’t just take marriage away. Not at first. But they can grant so many exemptions your marriage won’t be recognized anymore. And again, this isn’t hypothetical. The GOP is pushing dozens of exemption bills around the country, and Donald said he’ll sign a federal bill that would allow anyone, person or company, to redefine marriage on the fly to exclude same-sex couples.
Now let’s look internationally. Under Obama, the State Dept allocated $30 million to advance LGBT equality in 80 countries via the Global Equality Fund. A previous Secretary of State ― what was her name? ― said “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
But when asked during confirmation hearings if he agreed with that, Donald’s pick for Sec of State had this to say:
That’s it, just a shrug. That’s all. Shrug!
What does the shrug mean? Who knows, but probably not “here’s 30 million dollars to promote equality in 80 countries.”
Going from the international to the local: This one may seem small, but under Obama, the Dept of the Interior started identifying LGBT National Historic Landmarks, like the Henry Gerber House in Chicago and Stonewall in New York. Having these landmarks is symbolic, and it’s probably not going to save a ton of lives to have a plaque on the wall. But the symbolism of it reveals something deeper. When the country acknowledges that queer people existed and struggled throughout history, it’s acknowledging that we exist today.
Donald’s pick for the Department of the Interior is Ryan Zinke, who said that being gay is a choice. And the administration is already getting pressure to revoke national landmark status around the country. That has never happened before. But what has happened, many times, is people using “homosexuality is a choice” to erase queer people, deny our existence, claim that we’re just a bad choice. Because if we don’t really exist, we can’t demand hate crime protection, health care, housing, or marriage.
You can think of the progress that the LGBT community has made as a delicate tower. For the last eight years, a partnership of allies and leaders and activists has been building it up block by block. During normal political debate, you might see blocks carefully added or removed over time. But with this administration, if we don’t guard the tower every single day, we’re looking at a potential collapse.
Check out my podcast, Defining Marriage, where we talk about the week’s LGBT news.