By Lisa Keen
In LGBT-specific terms, President Donald Trump’s inaugural address was not much different than the first inaugural address of President Barack Obama. Neither said anything about LGBT people. Neither first inauguration included an openly LGBT person on the program. And both inaugural events gave public platforms to clergy with well-established hostilities toward LGBT equality.
Both first-term presidents also solicited input from the LGBT community through their transition teams. That was not a surprise coming from President Obama. He had included LGBT people in a large number of the activities leading up to his inauguration, had LGBT leaders actually meet with transition leaders, and had already appointed a lesbian as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Trump’s overtures to the LGBT community during the presidential campaign – including calls for Americans to stand in “solidarity” with LGBT people – had not translated into a working relationship with community leaders. He had the support of individual gay Republicans, but the national gay Republican group, Log Cabin Republicans, withheld any endorsement in the race. And Trump’s frequent pledges to repeal many of President Obama’s executive orders – along with his nominations to key administration posts of people with anti-LGBT records – has many LGBT people braced for the possibility he will reverse some or all of those pro-LGBT orders.
So it was a promising development when the Trump transition team reached out to Log Cabin Republicans.
According to Log Cabin national President Gregory Angelo, the “Trump Transition Team’s Office of National Engagement invited us to draft and submit the white paper on the LGBT Non-Discrimination Executive Order.” Angelo said the group also provided the paper to “members of the Transition Team specifically tasked with economic policy and executive order review.”
“Their request that we draft this document sends a strong signal that President Trump’s campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community was genuine,” said Angelo in a press release Jan. 18.
Log Cabin said that “preserving the LGBT Non-Discrimination Executive Order would prove” Trump to be such a friend. At a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about that white paper. He said he did not have any information about plans concerning LGBT-related executive orders.
The Log Cabin press release said the paper presented the “common-sense conservative case for LGBT non-discrimination in federal contractors to the Trump Transition Team.” The paper, created with a pro-LGBT public education group called Liberty Education Forum, notes that the last Republican president, George W. Bush, left undisturbed the original executive order prohibiting discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. It noted candidate Trump’s expressed support for the LGBT community.
So far, none of the several executive orders that President Trump has signed in his first days in office has sought to reverse the pro-LGBT executive orders. And his confirmed appointee for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, said at his confirmation hearing that he had no plans to try and reverse existing law that allows gays to serve openly in the military. However, Trump did sign an executive order to give states and federal agencies considerable leeway to undermine the Affordable Care Act, a law that has been strongly supported by the LGBT community. And on Monday, he signed an executive order to block non-governmental organizations receiving federal funds from providing information about obtaining abortions.
Mixed Bag in First Days
Other Trump administration news of special interest to the LGBT community has also been a mixed bag:
* Trump’s inaugural address urged the country to stand “united” and “pursue solidarity.” He promised action for the “forgotten men and women” but identified them as people who “came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.” He promised to help inner city families in poverty, abandoned factories, uneducated students, and victims of “crime and gangs and drugs.”
“We are one nation – and their pain is our pain,” said Trump. “Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
President Obama’s second inaugural address paid homage to the LGBT civil rights movement and called for a nation in which “our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
* The only mention of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” during the inaugural program itself was from Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Minority Leader of the Senate. “Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity; whether we are immigrant or native-born; whether we live with disabilities or do not; in wealth or in poverty; we are all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country,” said Schumer. According to a number of media reports on site, those remarks were received with booing from the inaugural audience.
* LGBT content on the White House website was wiped off within minutes of Trump’s taking the oath of office, along with content concerning civil rights and climate change. A section on the Department of Labor’s website concerning “Advancing LGBTQ Workplace Rights” was also removed.
“If President Trump truly believes in uniting the country, now is the time to make clear whether he will be an ally to the LGBTQ community in our struggle for full equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. Griffin urged Trump to reinstate the missing pages but added, “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our community and our progress.”
* Two gay Congressmen boycotted the inaugural. Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Mark Takano of California were among 67 members of Congress who declined to attend Trump’s inauguration. Pocan said he decided not to go after reading a classified document about Russian hacking of the presidential campaign and seeing Trump’s “offensive” Twitter posts against civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Takano cited Trump’s Twitter posts against Lewis, too.
* Rev. Robert Jeffress, who told Fox News that allowing same-sex couples to marry “opens up a Pandora’s box of societal-wide chaos” and leads to an “open season on Christians,” led a prayer service for Trump prior to the inauguration.
* Trump’s choice to lead the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has been the lead attorney helping to defend the University of North Carolina’s enforcement of a state law banning transgender students from using a public restroom for the gender with which they identify. John M. Gore will serve as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
* Proposition 8’s key defender, Charles Cooper, is reportedly one of two finalists for consideration as Solicitor General.
* The Women’s March to counter rhetoric used by the president during the campaign – rhetoric that “insulted, demonized, and threatened” a wide variety of women and minorities, including “people who identify as LGBTQIA” – drew enormous crowds to Washington, D.C., and more than 200 cities around the world. The podium at the main event in Washington included at least four openly LGBT speakers, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Astraea-Lesbian Foundation for Justice Executive Director J. Bob Alotta, Transgender Law Center spokesperson Raquel Willis, and professor and activist Angela Davis.
* U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin attended the exclusive post-inaugural luncheon for President Trump, held in Statutory Hall at the Capitol. Baldwin was invited as a member of the current Democratic leadership team in the House. According to The Hill newspaper, Baldwin was one of two senators that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spent much of her time talking to at the luncheon.
* Russian television was interested in LGBT participation in inaugural events. The Russian news channel RT.com reported that various events and protests, including a “gay dance party,” were scheduled “in an attempt to sabotage Donald Trump’s inauguration.”
* An unofficial inaugural ball, one hosted specifically for “Gays for Trump,” was held in a Washington suburb on Saturday night. According to Time magazine, the group called its event the “Deplorable Ball” – an apparent reference to Clinton’s use of the word “deplorables” to describe some of Trump’s supporters.
* A group called Qockblockade Brigade staged “queer resistance” actions during the inauguration. According to various news reports, the group, and similar direct action groups supporting other issues, staged sit-ins and “dance parties” at security checkpoints for entering the inauguration audience sites. The group said its purpose was “to remind Inauguration attendees, as well as the world, that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going back in the closet.”