Donald Trump’s second week in office started out much like his first: a barrage of bombast, chaos and confusion to a backdrop of vociferous popular protests. This time it was over his Executive Order barring Muslim travelers–refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries–entry into the US. The massive confusion and outrage that attended the immediate implementation of the ban all but stopped passenger travel at several airports.
Trump’s week was like a waterspout that rains frogs: fascinating, disgusting, and leaving a stinky, nasty mess for others to clean up. White House rumors were rampant. We posted on our Facebook page several articles on Trump’s possible actions pertinent to the LGBTQ community: the President’s openness to the First Amendment Defense Act (as yet not presented to the Senate), his vetting of anti-LGBTQ Supreme Court nominee William Pryor, his reported contemplation of removing a ban on LGBTQ discrimination among federal contractors. All of these were cause for alarm, and we noted them on our page.
In light of these items, plus ongoing concerns regarding anti-LGBTQ sentiments among the people surrounding Trump, it was with a cautious sense of relief that we received the news of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch is a conservative in the style of Antonin Scalia, whom he will be replacing on the Court, should his nomination be confirmed. This is not great news, but we know it could have been much, much worse. Since marriage equality is the law of the land, it is some comfort to be considering a judge who reportedly does not favor changing established law.
The sky had suddenly stopped raining frogs. Because just prior to Trump’s Supreme Court announcement, another item ran, which we posted from the New York Times, stating Trump intends to keep LGBTQ protections for federal workers put in place by President Obama.
We momentarily got to catch our breath on two fronts, it seems. But it was short-lived. Chaos and rumor still hold sway in the early days of this new administration, as evidenced late last evening by an article in The Nation:
So, what seemed a victory for federal LGBTQ workers may turn out to be an incomplete headline: ‘Trump plans to leave Obama protections in place for now, while a much more comprehensive attack is formulated’, for instance.
None of this bodes well for the LGBTQ community. But we are still in the rumor stage with regard the above item.
But this latest leak makes Judge Gorsuch a less appealing Supreme Court pick. It seems he would expand the legal parameters of “religious liberty”. In his appellate court concurrence agreeing that Hobby Lobby could refuse to provide contraception as part of the insurance it provided employees, Gorsuch said,
All of us face the problem of complicity. All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others. For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability.
Here he seems quite clearly to be equating birth control with “wrongdoing” (birth control, not abortion), and the refusal to provide for such coverage equates to some sort of win for religion. Would he go on to agree that selling baked goods to gay people could make the baker complicit in their “wrongdoing”? What “wrongdoing”?
With so many “religious liberty” bills aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people, we have to wonder how Judge Gorsuch would rule.
And the question of “religious liberty” bills is also a crucial one with regards to Trump himself. Trump has signaled some support of LGBTQ citizens. But he has also indicated even greater support for the religious right, who were instrumental to his election victory. For instance, he has made it known that, should it reach his desk, he will sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which codifies marriage as ‘between one man and one woman’ and sex as lawful only within those heterosexual marriages. A collision with marriage equality is inevitable. How will President Trump support the LGBTQ community in that instance? Will he even try?
Today, Trump has taken his promises to right win religious conservatives even further by vowing to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which is explained in a New York Times article today:
It is one of the brightest lines in the legal separation between religion and politics. Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate. Specifically, ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Considered uncontroversial at the time, it was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican. Today, however, many Republicans want to repeal it.
This administration is engaging in a lot of bait-and-switch when it comes to LGBTQ citizens. The mixed messages may well be intended to confuse and divide us. It would be a masterful stroke on the part of Trump (or Steve Bannon, his strategic advisor) to peel away LGBTQ resistance by throwing us a few scraps (are we supposed to be grateful he didn’t nominate the guy who wants us jailed?).
They don’t know us very well. With this Supreme Court nomination, Trump is giving a wink to rolling back women’s reproductive rights. With his ban, he is discriminating based on religion. With his green light to the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, he indicates the planet is for sale. With his willingness to destroy our signature achievement as a nation, the separation of church and state, he reveals a sinister disrespect for both church and state. With his unknown finances and ties to Russia, he is possibly endangering us all.
Watch what they do. It tells us who they are, and who we are to them. We will still stand strong with our sisters, our fellow citizens of all faiths and colors, our environment, and our core American values.
Watch what they do.