A recent NBC News poll (taken before the infamous tape of Donald Trump bragging of sexual assault) showed that if the election were held today, only 63 percent of LGBT voters would vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s well below the 76 percent of LGBT voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
The remaining 37 percent of LGBTs are split among Trump (15 percent), Gary Johnson (13 percent), and Jill Stein (8 percent). Given the choice between Clinton and Trump alone, the LGBT voters split 72-20—with Clinton still polling below Obama’s 2012 numbers.
WTF is going on?
No one can deny that Clinton is by far the better candidate on LGBT issues; indeed, she (or her campaign) penned a remarkable op-ed on the subject earlier this month. Rather, the reason seems to be that people believe LGBT issues are not at stake in this election, and so they’re voting based on other factors. (Indeed, LGBT issues didn’t even come up in the vice presidential debate, with one of the most anti-gay governors in the nation sitting at the table.)
Of course, there have always been gay Republicans—mostly wealthy, white gay men—and they’ve always had the same basic point of view: that while they disagree with the GOP on gay issues, they agree on a whole lot of other things, and those other things are more important. Peter Thiel, who just announced a $1.25 million donation to the Trump campaign, is just the latest, libertarian-ish version.
But now, with same-sex marriage in the rearview mirror, there appear to be more gay people with that perspective. And not just the publicity-seeking provocateurs, bumbling second-tier celebrities, and the same old neoconservative, homonationalist gay Republicans who have backed Trump so far. Those guys can’t account for 37 percent of the LGBT community.
And yet, LGBT issues are indeed at stake, and a Trump/Pence administration would be a disaster for LGBT people. Here are five reasons why.
1. The Supreme Court
With marriage equality the law of the land, the Supreme Court has returned to its usual role as electoral sleep aid. But gay voters should wake the hell up. Trump hasn’t just proposed conservative justices—he’s proposed ultra-conservative justices to the right of the late Justice Scalia. Mark my words, if Trump is elected, gay marriage will be overturned within a decade.
And that’s just marriage. It’s not hard to envision the “federalists” on the court allowing states to pass sodomy laws again. Not to mention upholding “Turn the Gays Away” and other anti-LGBT laws like North Carolina’s HB2. Not to mention denying LGBT people the status of a legally “protected class” deserving of extra protection. Not to mention denying that transgender people even exist.
If you don’t think the Supreme Court is a vital LGBT issue, you’re not paying attention.
2. Mike Pence
It’s generally understood that Donald Trump intends to “delegate” much of the grunt work of the presidency to his vice president, Mike Pence. This will be especially true on cultural issues, which Trump doesn’t care about but half of the Republican base does. In terms of social policy, a Trump administration will be a Pence administration.
And that should be terrifying.
In a famous interview on ABC News, Pence refused to say whether his “religious liberty” law, one of the worst in the nation, would or wouldn’t allow businesses to discriminate against gays, despite being prompted six times by George Stephanopoulos. Pence refused to say whether it’s OK to fire gay people for being gay. He has endorsed the horrifying and ineffective practice of “gay conversion therapy.”
But those specific examples really are just the superficial symptoms of a much deeper, and sincere, religious conservatism. This isn’t meant to demean Pence’s views; it’s not about homophobia, or some kind of pathology. These positions reflect what Pence, like 30 percent of Americans, sincerely believe is the right way forward for America: a return to traditional “Judeo-Christian” values and morality.
And that is the foundation for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of policies. A Trump-Pence administration will promote creationism and “traditional” sexual/gender norms in schools, end funding for HIV prevention and research, return us to the Reagan-Bush days of abstinence-only education, increase faith-based initiatives and funding to conservative religious organizations, and undertake a thousand tiny actions that won’t make the headlines but will gradually turn back the clock of America’s moral progress. Pence doesn’t think it’s been progress, he thinks that our new freedoms are a sign of moral decay.
3. Transgender People
We’ve reported many times on how the transgender community has experienced a backlash before even getting a “frontlash”: the outrageous anti-trans “bathroom panics” around the country, the horrifying levels of violence against trans people (especially trans women of color), the discrimination and economic hardship faced by trans people every day.
But I think we’ve all understated the threat here. Transgender, as a category, barely exists in federal law. What few protections exist are predicated on a legal theory that sex discrimination includes gender-identity discrimination. That is a delicate thread. And let’s remember, many people, especially religious conservatives, simply don’t think that trans is a thing. They think that Caitlyn Jenner is just a confused man, that transgender identity is a mental illness.
In other words, transgender will stop being a thing as far as the federal government is concerned. Protecting trans people from discrimination? Might as well protect dragons from being hunted. It’s easy to turn back the clock on “gay rights”—but on trans rights, the clock hasn’t even started ticking yet.
4. The Rest of the World
While life for most LGBT people has definitely gotten better here in the United States, it has not in many parts of the world. In Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Malaysia, East Africa, and Central Asia, life has gotten worse: more dangerous, more violent, less protected by law.
One of Clinton’s unheralded accomplishments was remaking the State Department’s policy on LGBT equality worldwide. Under her watch, the notion that LGBT rights are human rights became U.S. government policy—and with that shift came funding, diplomatic efforts, and countless internal policies that have helped LGBT people who live in dangerous places.
All that would be instantly erased in a Trump administration—and reversed. At the very least, Trump’s “America First” isolationism would bring about a withdrawal of all of this support. Almost certainly, however, the U.S. would join with Russia in promoting the so-called natural family—i.e., heterosexual marriage with fixed gender roles. Pence’s constituency in the Christian right has made it a top-tier issue, and it will almost certainly become U.S. government policy to oppose LGBT equality anywhere in the world—including where LGBT people are most vulnerable.
5. Discrimination in the Name of Religion
For the last two years, we’ve been talking about the “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” that are the latest weapon in the right’s culture war against women and LGBT people. Pence, of course, is king of the RFRAs.
Well, get ready for a new acronym: FADA, the First Amendment Defense Act, which Trump has pledged to sign if elected. FADA is RFRA on steroids. It allows businesses and individuals (including doctors, pharmacists, teachers, and counselors) to refuse to serve gay people, protects anti-gay hate speech (because religion), enables adoption providers to refuse to place children with same-sex families, and allows a host of other anti-LGBT actions—all with the mere pretext of religious belief.
Forget the North Carolina law. FADA would be a nationwide law that would go well beyond anything North Carolina or Indiana has done. It would be a national catastrophe for LGBT people, instantly superseding and erasing non-discrimination laws across the country. It would be the worst anti-gay law in a generation—and Trump has promised to sign it.
Had enough? I’ve got more.
Trump would undo all of Obama’s pro-LGBT executive orders, thus enabling government contractors to discriminate against LGBT people again, and enabling gay government workers to be fired for being gay.
Trump would ensure that it remains legal to fire someone for being gay or trans—as it currently is in 28 states. A Trump-Pence administration could easily make it extremely difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children.
I could go on and on.
It doesn’t matter that Trump isn’t personally homophobic. It doesn’t matter who Trump hung out with at Studio 54. It matters who he’s hanging out with today, what his stated positions are, who his base is, who his running mate is, and what his political calculations would be as president.
If you care about LGBT equality but think it’s irrelevant enough that you can cast a protest vote, or a vote on other issues, you are wrong.