Americans United has spoken out strongly against last week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it will strip anti-discrimination policies that apply to all of its grant programs agency-wide.
While many Americans may be harmed by this misguided policy, the brunt of the proposed rule will fall on members of the LGBTQ community. Under President Barack Obama, HHS had issued a rule that protected LGBTQ people, among others, against discrimination in its grant programs. Trump is obliterating that rule.
It’s important to remember that this is far from the first Trump salvo against LGBTQ people. The president’s record in this area can only be described as appalling. Here are the low points:
- One of Trump’s first acts after taking office was to rescind policy guidance issued during the presidency of Barack Obama that offered protection to transgender students in public schools.
- Five months after that, Trump announced, via Twitter in July 2017, that he was banning transgender troops from military service. He took this step without consulting with military leaders, many of whom later indicated that they opposed the move.
- In the fall of 2018, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was considering new regulations that would narrowly define gender as a biological condition, based on genitalia at birth, that cannot change. The Times story, headlined, “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration,” asserted that the rule, if implemented, would be “the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.” (The order was never issued as a stand-alone rule, but its anti-trans concepts have surfaced in other orders.)
- HHS’s Office for Civil Rights in May proposed new rules that would remove explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people under a section of the Affordable Care Act – severely threatening transgender people’s access to health care. (Although aimed at the transgender community, the new rules are so broad that they would make it harder for others to access health care without discrimination, including women, people with limited English proficiency, people with disabilities and people living with HIV/AIDS.)
- In a series of cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump’s Justice Department argued that our nation’s civil rights law provides no protections for members of the LGBTQ community. In a case from Michigan, the department asserted that a funeral home should be able to fire a transgender employee. In an earlier case, Trump’s Justice Department sided with a Colorado bakery that sought the right to refuse service to LGBTQ people.
- Trump’s HHS in May proposed a sweeping rule that would allow people who work in any area of the medical field to cite their religious beliefs to deny services to almost anyone, and LGBTQ people are particularly at risk. Americans United and allies are challenging this Denial of Care Rule in court, arguing that it puts people’s lives in jeopardy.
- In August, Trump’s Department of Labor unveiled a proposed rule that would allow taxpayer-funded government contractors to use religious litmus tests in employment, a move that is widely perceived as giving them the right to fire or refuse to hire LGBTQ people.
- Trump’s judicial appointments are often vetted by extreme far-right groups; many have been hostile to LGBTQ rights. Trump has stated that he is open to seeing the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality overturned.
During Trump’s campaign, he told LGBTQ voters that he’d be a “real friend” to them, adding, “I will fight for you….” Instead, he has spent three years kowtowing to Christian nationalists who have a demonstrated track record of hostility to LGBTQ rights.
Americans United believes that our laws and public policies should promote equal treatment, decency and dignity for everyone and that religion should never be an excuse to undermine these laws to cause harm or result in discrimination. We’re fighting Trump’s misguided discriminatory policies against LGBTQ Americans, women, nontheists and others in courts, in the Congress, in state legislatures and in the arena of public debate. Please consider joining us.