“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens.”
Remember when a man named Donald J. Trump uttered that surprising statement back in 2016? I know what you must be thinking: Surely that can’t have been our President Donald J. Trump, known for his brutish statements against women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and so on and so forth?
But it was. In fact, Donald Trump the Candidate made history as one of the first Republican presidential nominees to openly state support for the LGBTQ community, even going so far as to mention us at the Republican National Convention after securing his nomination. So how has our apparent ally held up since becoming the 45th president of the United States?
Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017, President Trump and his administration have pushed through a whopping 35 direct assaults — at least — on the dignity, freedom, and human rights of LGBTQ Americans. From banning transgender recruits from the military to rescinding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers to erasing LGBTQ citizens from national data reserves, this administration’s timeline of actions against the queer community reads like the nightmarish, systematic enactment of a calculated dystopian playbook.
Detailed receipts below.
January 20, 2017 — Donald Trump is sworn in as 45th president of the United States.
January 20, 2017 — LGBTQ content is removed from both the White House and Department of State websites. LGBTQ rights, which had a dedicated page on the White House website under the Obama administration, disappeared after Trump’s election and never returned.
January 31, 2017 — The White House releases a statement promising to protect LGBTQ rights in response to rumors of a forthcoming anti-LGBTQ executive order. Reports say Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pushed to squash a heavily circulated draft order that would rescind Obama-era protections of LGBTQ employees.
February 22, 2017 — The Trump administration rescinds protections for transgender students. The Justice Department and Education Department jointly issued new standards to end Obama-era policy that had directed all schools receiving federal money to allow transgender students to access school facilities — like bathrooms and locker rooms — that align with their gender identity.
March 13, 2017 — The Department of State sends two anti-LGBTQ organizations as delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, an important global meeting of government leaders and civil society groups to create consensus on how to advance women’s rights around the world. One of those two groups, the Center for Family and Human Rights, is listed as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
March 20, 2017 — The Department of Health and Human Services deletes LGBTQ questions from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, which it uses to determine which groups that work with the elderly will receive federal funding. After harsh backlash, the HHS backtracked and agreed to retain the questions.
March 27, 2017 — President Trump signs an executive order allowing federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ employees. The order repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulation, which former President Barack Obama had put in place to bar discrimination against employees on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
March 29, 2017 — The U.S. Census Bureau cuts proposed questions to count LGBTQ citizens. It sent Congress a list of proposed questions but then hours later deleted the reference to sexual orientation and gender identity questions. The 2020 Census will include a question about same-sex couples living together, a congressional report revealed, but it will not attempt to collect information about single gay men, single lesbians, single bisexual people, or transgender people.
April 7, 2017 — Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court, likely solidifying a conservative majority ahead of contentious cases like the critical LGBTQ discrimination case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Court later ruled in favor of the baker who denied service to a gay engaged couple over his religious beliefs.
April 14, 2017 — The Department of Justice drops former President Obama’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” (H.B. 2) requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates.
May 2, 2017 — The HHS voluntarily withdraws from litigation to keep legal an Obama-era rule protecting transgender people from discrimination when accessing health care. A Texas federal court had placed an injunction on the rule, which declared the Affordable Health Care Act’s sex nondiscrimination clause (Section 1557) also included discrimination based on gender identity. The HHS Department readily accepted the injunction against it.
May 4, 2017 — President Trump signs a religious liberty executive order to allow churches to become more politically active. Specifically, it directs the Treasury Department to limit enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which financially penalizes churches or religious organizations for political speech. Practically, the effect is mostly to indicate support for and even encourage religious institutions to start getting more involved in the political arena.
June 2017 — The White House refuses to recognize Pride Month.
Summer 2017 — The HHS Department’s Office for Civil Rights quietly removes all language referencing Section 1557’s nondiscrimination protections for people on the basis of their gender identity, even though it’s still legally required to enforce them.
July 26, 2017 — The Justice Department files court papers saying employers can fire people based on their sexual orientation. They argued the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII, which protects workers from discrimination on the basis of sex, doesn’t protect LGBTQ people.
July 26, 2017 — President Trump announces transgender people can no longer serve in the military.
August 25, 2017 — President Trump signs a formal memorandum directing the U.S. military to stop accepting transgender people and to stop funding sex-reassignment surgeries for active personnel. The administration was quickly sued by several civil rights groups and current transgender service members, and four separate federal judges (in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Riverside, California) blocked the ban, halting the White House’s efforts. Two federal appeals courts (one in Washington and one in Virginia) rejected the administration’s request to halt those orders.
September 7, 2017 — The Justice Department sides with Jack Phillips, the baker who turned away a same-sex couple seeking a wedding cake in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. They even filed an entire brief to the Supreme Court to support him.
October 4, 2017 — The Justice Department officially eliminates workplace anti-discrimination protections for transgender people. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo reverses federal policy that said trans workers were covered by Title VII, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex.
October 6, 2017 — The Justice Department issues a religious liberty guidance giving faith organizations authority to ignore federal bans on discrimination against LGBTQ people and women. The guidance, which features 20 “principles of religious liberty” all federal agencies must follow, allows employers to exclusively hire workers whose beliefs and lifestyle are “consistent with the employer’s religious precepts.” The Human Rights Campaign called the move a sweeping “license to discriminate.”
December 14, 2017 — The Centers for Disease Control receives a list of banned words, including “transgender,” “diversity,” and “vulnerable.” The CDC later pushed back against the report saying no words had been banned.
December 27, 2017 — The Trump administration fires all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS by overnight mail. Six of its members had already resigned in protest in June. President Trump still has yet to appoint a new director.
January 18, 2018 — The HHS announces the creation of the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which will enforce religious freedom in regards to HHS policies and protect medical professionals’ ability to opt out of providing certain procedures (like abortion) or treating certain patients (like LGBTQ people).
January 19, 2018 — The HHS proposes a new rule on “conscience rights” to give medical professionals permission to refuse to treat transgender patients. The rule rolls back an Obama-era policy that prohibited health care workers from discriminating against patients based on their religious beliefs; it also pushes to “more vigorously enforce” 25 existing statutory “conscience protections” for people with moral or religious convictions related to certain health care services.
January 31, 2018 — The Justice Department updates the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual to prioritize religious liberty cases. It now requires high-level department approval for any suit that “impinges” on religious liberty and mandates a designated “Religious Liberty Point of Contact” for all U.S. attorney offices. (It later also deleted language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering.)
February 12, 2018 — The Education Department explicitly states it will not be investigating anti-transgender discrimination complaints in public schools.
March 23, 2018 — The White House announces a policy to formally ban transgender people from military service, signed by President Trump. A federal district judge upheld her initial injunction against the order later in April, saying the ban is still blocked pending further review, and ruled again against the ban in June after the administration appealed. A San Francisco appeals court on July 18 also rejected the administration’s request to put the ban into effect while the case was pending an appellate ruling. In the meantime, 33 retired military officers and national security officials filed a brief opposing the president’s transgender ban, and although currently court orders should allow transgender recruits to join the military, transgender people have still been largely unable to enlist.
April 11, 2018 — The Justice Department requests to remove LGBTQ questions from the National Crime Victimization Survey.
April 13, 2018 — The HHS submits its rewrite of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
May 3, 2018 — President Trump signs an executive order “prioritizing” religious liberty throughout his entire administration. It creates the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which will provide recommendations on any policies affecting faith communities, alert the executive branch of any “failures” to “comply with religious liberty protections under law,” and generally work to “reduce the burdens on the exercise of free religion.”
May 11, 2018 — The Trump administration rolls back rules protecting transgender prisoners. The Bureau of Prisons will now “use biological sex as the initial determination” for the type of housing inmates are assigned, potentially putting trans prisoners at risk of sexual harassment and assault. This reverses the Obama-era policy that allowed transgender inmates to use facilities matching their gender identity. They have not released information on how they define “biological sex.”
May 31, 2018 — President Trump randomly pardons anti-LGBTQ commentator Dinesh D’Souza. The guy’s shining moments include outing his gay classmates at Dartmouth College, blaming gay people for 9/11, and trying to argue that Hitler wasn’t “anti-gay.” Okay, Dinesh.
June 2018 — President Trump ignores Pride Month for the second year.
July 9, 2018 — President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to take the open Supreme Court seat. With several critical LGBTQ rights cases on the docket, the conservative judge’s confirmation could potentially spell disaster for gay marriage rights, health care protections, and more.
July 11, 2018 — House Republicans vote to allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples on religious grounds.
July 30, 2018 — Jeff Sessions announces the creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” to enforce the Justice Department’s religious liberty guidance. The task force will ensure all U.S. attorneys are following the guidance in all the cases they bring and defend. It will be headed by Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, who defended supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot that banned same-sex marriage in Calif. for five years.
Bonus — President Trump does not have a White House LGBT Liaison. The position has existed since 1995, though President George W. Bush also neglected to name one.