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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 45
DISASTER!
What a Trump presidency means for the LGBT community
Section One
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DISASTER!
What a Trump presidency means for the LGBT community

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'Fasten your seat belts,' as Bette Davis said, 'it's going to be a bumpy ride.'

While it may take months or years for the full effects of a Trump presidency to be felt by the LGBT community, the prospects look grim.

With Republicans still controlling both houses of Congress and - starting January 20 - the White House, the Equality Act, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to US civil rights laws, seems dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

Absent statutory protections, LGBT workers could at least count on President Obama's 2014 executive order barring discrimination in companies that do business with the federal government.

Once Obama is out of office, however, and Trump is in, he can cancel any and all executive orders protecting the LGBT community.

The same goes for guidelines issued by executive departments - for example, the Department of Education's decision that Title IX protects students' gender identity under its clause forbidding sex discrimination. Once Trump is in office and installs his own Secretary of Education, all bets are off.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruling that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBT employees is also at risk, because EEOC chairs and commissioners serve at the pleasure of the president. Trump can appoint EEOC officers who would rescind the previous interpretation of Title VII.

Both the Title IX and Title VII interpretations are currently being litigated, with most federal courts so far favoring the Obama administration's reading of the law. The US Supreme Court said in October that it would review a Title IX case in its current term, and the decision is expected sometime in June, after Trump becomes president.

However, there is now one vacancy on the high court and the Republican-controlled Senate has no incentive to confirm President Obama's appointee when they could wait till January and act on a Trump appointee. With several members of the court old and ailing, Trump could also appoint several more justices before his term is up.

Already-decided cases - USA v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, for example - will remain in force, so marriage equality is safe for the time being. But nothing prevents justices from hearing new cases that might lead them to reconsider prior decisions, even though that would be unusual.

Trump already announced a list of potential Supreme Court nominees in September, and many are known to be hostile to both LGBT rights and reproductive choice, so it's not out of the question that a Trump court would reverse Roe v. Wade or the marriage rulings.

Even if that happens, same-sex spouses in Washington state are safe up to a point, because state law guarantees marriage equality independent of any federal legal provisions.

On the other hand, if Windsor is reversed, and the federal government reverts to refusing to recognize same-sex marriage, couples in this state will find themselves cut off from many benefits of marriage - Social Security and pension spousal benefits, for example.

Even if the Supreme Court's marriage decisions are not reversed, a Trump administration could try to obstruct many benefits of same-sex marriage by ordering executive departments not to recognize same-sex spouses for tax, insurance, or pension purposes. That would force Lesbian and Gay couples to relitigate the validity of their marriages, with uncertain results.

The Supreme Court has already adopted dangerously broad religious exclusions from federal law in the Hobby Lobby case. Conservative justices - including any additional ones Trump might appoint - could try to cripple same-sex marriage without actually reversing their previous marriage rulings by allowing public officials or private businesses to opt out of participation in same-sex marriages.

For couples in big cities, where there are many bakers, printers, banquet halls, clergy, and judges, being sent away by one business or one official might be an inconvenience but not a serious obstacle. But for couples in small towns or rural areas, being denied the use of public accommodations or the services of local officials might be the equivalent of being denied the right to a wedding, period.

Trump, by the way, has already promised to sign the Republican-backed First Amendment Defense Act, a proposal that would permit anti-LGBT discrimination on the grounds of religion.

Trump has also promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, leaving millions of people without health insurance. Among those who would be especially hard-hit would be people with pre-existing conditions like HIV, who are guaranteed coverage under the ACA but who would find it next to impossible to buy insurance in an unregulated and unsubsidized private market.

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DISASTER!
What a Trump presidency means for the LGBT community

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