Editorial: Scrutinizing Trump’s efforts to roll back LGBT citizens’ rights

As if we didn’t have enough cause to hold this American president and his administration in the deepest of disdain, a new policy brief prepared by the Fenway Institute of Fenway Health was issued last week and, as you’d expect, it’s not great news. The report summarizes the myriad ways— large and small— that Trumpists at various levels of the federal government are working to undermine and discriminate against LGBT Americans.

“In just two years, we have witnessed the rollback of rights and protections that took decades to win. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the full extent of harm now taking place,” said Sean Cahill, a former Dorchester resident who is now the director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute. He is one of three people who wrote the brief.

“It is undeniable that LGBT people and people living with HIV are now much more vulnerable to discrimination in health care, social services, employment, education, and access to basic government services,” he said.

This is the second such report prepared by the Fenway Institute. The first one, covering 2017, was bleak as well. This one itemizes the second year of the Trump debacle and drills down on the piecemeal, but unfortunately effective, approach to targeting LGBT neighbors.

Following is a punch list of some of the more egregious examples from the Fenway Institute:

· “Taking aggressive steps to prevent transgender people from serving in the military;

• “Putting transgender inmates at higher risk of rape by assigning them to federal prisons based on their birth sex, not their present gender identity;

• “Dismissing Peace Corps volunteers who tested positive for HIV;

• ‘Ending the practice of issuing G-4 visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or employees of international organizations—such as the World Bank or the United Nations—who are working and living in the United States;

• “Issuing a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that could allow health care providers to refuse to care for patients who conflict with their “religious belief or moral conviction” or force them “to act contrary to one’s belief”; 

• “Eliminating references to inclusion and protection from discriminatory housing practices in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mission statement.”

Cahill and his co-authors also point to some deeply troubling signs that could have long-lasting impacts through the judiciary. They note that Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second Supreme Court appointee, “repeatedly refused to answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about whether he believed that Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state anti-gay marriage laws, was correctly decided by the US Supreme Court.”

Another judge appointed by Trump—Kyle Duncan to the 5th US Court of Appeals based in Louisiana— is on record claiming that a decision affirming marriage equality for same-sex couples would “damage” the political and social institutions of the country.

And, in October, Trump’s Justice Department advised the Supreme Court that gender identity should be considered “outside the scope” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The full policy brief can be read online at fenwayhealth.org. It’s further evidence that this presidency — even if held to one term— is one that will haunt this nation for years to come.

Bill Forry

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