Two steps forward, three steps back – the future of LGBTI rights
Despite the mixed reviews on the accomplishments of departing US President Obama, his record on LGBTI rights is extensive. We might have forgotten this list of his varied successes, best summed up in his concise statement that “the simple truth is that LGBTI rights are human rights.”
The ascent of President-elect Trump is worrying for a number of reasons, one of which is the future of LBGTI rights in America and the fallout around the world.
Despite the lack of clarity on whether Trump’s campaign rhetoric will match the reality of his presidency, the members of his Cabinet so far are all anti-LGBTI rights.
Donald Trump has been a consistent opponent of marriage equality. He has embraced the nation’s most odious anti-LGBTIQ law, North Carolina’s HB2.
Mike Pence, Vice-President Elect, became the face of anti-LGBTI discrimination after signing a bill to allow businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBTI people because of who they are or whom they love. Pence has also advocated for diverting taxpayer dollars to so-called conversion therapy, the controversial practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. He believes that “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.” And “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual’s [sic] as a ‘discreet [sic] and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”
Jeff Sessions, Attorney-General nominee, has a long history as a racist and a homophobe. The Alabama Senator is known as one of the most conservative and anti-LGBTI members of Congress and has been a vocal opponent over any attempts to bring about LGBTI equality.
He attacked the White House for failing to defend the Defence of Marriage Act, a move which eventually led to the legalisation of equal marriage across all 50 states.
Betsy DeVos potential Secretary of Education is a billionaire and anti-gay activist whose family donates huge sums of money to anti-LGBTI causes. Betsy and Richard DeVos headed the effort to amend Michigan’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and gave $200,000 to the campaign and $500,000 to the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage — which helped shoot down same-sex marriage initiatives in eight states.
Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland, Trump’s pick for Deputy National Security Adviser, a former Pentagon official during the Reagan administration, outed her gay brother, who was dying of AIDS, to their family.
David Clarke, the Sheriff of Milwaukee County, mooted to run the Department of Homeland Security, would be Trump’s most extreme anti-LGBTI appointment to date. He has attacked the “freakish lifestyle” of transgender people, claiming they have mental disorders and called the Orlando massacre “a distraction.”
Trump’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Congressman Thomas Price, co-sponsored the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would legalize discrimination against LGBTI people. Trump has already promised to sign this when passed by Congress in 2017.
Every single Trump appointee so far announced opposes LGBTI rights.
Vladimir Putin is fast becoming Trump’s ‘bestie’. To embrace so warmly an autocrat who openly persecutes LGBTI people, throws doubt on Trump’s human rights position. Indeed, Putin’s anti-LGBTI measures helped buttress support for him from American conservatives, as documented by Right Wing Watch.
I guess it’s a fair question to ask if we’re just being alarmist. Why should a winding back of these rights in the US affect the hard-won rights in other nations, including Australia? In short because an amalgamation of such powerful people will always be have an effect. It’s unlikely that these powerful people will abandon their convictions behind the door when implementing policies.
I would argue a loss of such human rights would be a tragedy for three reasons.
Firstly opposition to such rights would see the lives of US LGBTI people diminished.
Secondly the US’s role in encouraging international LGBTI rights would be minimised. Samar Habib of the Washington Post recently wrote that the election of Trump will most likely reverse the Obama Administration’s “diplomatic pressure( which has) advanced LGBTI human rights around the world.” He believes that because the stance of individuals like Pence, Putin and also the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s member states (OIC) is the same, “the internationalization of LGBTI rights will slow if not halt.”
And thirdly, the ascendancy of such a potential homophobic cabal blows wind into the sails (and lead into the pencils) of politicians like Cory Bernardi, (fresh from his exposure to Trumpism) George Christensen and others who are pushing back in Australia against same-sex marriage and programs such as the Safe-Schools, designed to support young vulnerable LGBTI students.
Of course a retreat on the human rights front is only one anxiety thrown up by the Trump ascendancy but the evidence is mounting that we may yet have to fight all over again to retrieve the rights we thought had already been achieved.