President Donald Trump pledged to be a friend to LGBTQ Americans, before quickly revealing that there was—surprise!—no reason to trust that claim. The administration has been on the offensive against LGBTQ rights since the 45th president of the United States took office, and this year has been no exception. If anything, the onslaught is ramping up.
Below, read up on 16 notable instances of the Trump administration going after the queer community in 2019.
Proposed Cuts to the Fight to End the Global HIV/AIDS EpidemicMANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
And while the administration’s 2019 budget proposal requested $291 million to fight the epidemic in the United States, it also proposed cutting $1.3 billion from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which works to eradicate the virus globally. It also sought to change Medicaid funding from unlimited federal matching to a block grant, and to give states more flexibility to change eligibility requirements and increase the burden of costs to recipients.
Successfully Pushed for Trans Military Ban to Go Into EffectAlex Wong/Getty Images
The ban on most transgender individuals from serving in the military went into effect in April, having cleared all legal impediments. The ban is still working its way through the courts, but the administration was successful in getting the Supreme Court to lift injunctions in the meantime.
That decision put the administration in the clear to force out troops who require hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender-affirming surgeries, kick out those “who can’t or won’t serve in their birth genders,” and reject recruits who are experiencing gender dysphoria, taking hormones, or seek to transition.
Announced Rule Ceasing Data Collection on LGBTQ Foster YouthAlex Wong/Getty Images
The administration announced a rule in April to stop collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data on foster youth, which began under Obama. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the decision was based on concerns collection the data could be seen as “intrusive and worrisome to those who have experienced trauma and discrimination as a result of gender identity or sexual orientation.” The move alarmed LGBTQ advocates.
“Identifying those youth and being able to capture the disparity between non-LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ youth helps states and tribes to understand what their experiences are and be able to devise implement and deploy best practices,” Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer at Family Equality Council, told NBC News.
Opposed the Equality ActTasos Katopodis/Getty Images
There are still no federal protections in place to prevent Americans from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This leaves LGBTQ Americans at the whim of the laws in their state, many of which don’t have inclusive nondiscrimination protections, either.
The Equality Act would add those categories to preexisting federal civil rights law, and it passed in the House in May. Republicans in the Senate have been preventing it from coming up for a vote, however, and a senior Trump administration official wasted no time saying the president opposes its passage.
Proposed Allowing Shelters to Discriminate Against Trans PeopleMichael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Homelessness impacts the transgender community at a higher rate than their cis counterparts due to the discrimination trans people face in areas of employment and housing. That made the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s announcement in May that it intended to roll back Obama-era protections for trans people in homeless shelters especially damaging. HUD, headed up by Ben Carson, proposed allowing even those shelters receiving federal funding to refuse to offer services based on an individual’s gender identity.
In September, Carson upset staff during a meeting at HUD’s San Francisco office, when he reportedly referred to trans women as “big, hairy men.” He went on to say respecting trans rights was akin to granting “special rights,” and that trans people “should get the same rights as everyone else, but they don’t get to change things for everybody else.”
Tried to Stop U.S. Embassies From Flying Pride FlagsJörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images
Trump liked passing himself off as a “friend to the gays” during his run for office in 2016, but he has proven the only Pride flag he can get behind is one with his own last name hastily scrawled across it. In 2017, the administration ensured the rainbow flag wouldn’t fly on federal lands as it would have done thanks to the Stonewall Inn being named a national monument.
Apparently, that wasn’t enough: This year, the administration attempted to stop U.S. embassies from flying the Pride flag. Some embassies found creative ways to get around the ban, like affixing the flag to the side of the building instead of flying it on the flagpole with alongside an American flag.
Ended Federal Funding of Research Working on HIV TherapiesAMELIE-BENOIST/BSIP/Getty Images
Scientists continue to make breakthroughs to help combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, bringing us closer to a cure. The Trump administration is standing in the way of that progress, however, despite claiming to want to end new infections. Last year, it put a stop to scientists employed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) acquiring new human fetal tissue for experiments, leading to a shutdown of HIV/AIDS research that was making progress in the fight.
It continued that trend this year, ceasing funding of medical research by government scientists using fetal tissue, as well as cancelling a university laboratory’s contract over use of the material to test new HIV therapies.
Trump also managed to leave the LGBTQ community out of his World AIDS Day proclamation this year, and not for the first time, either.
Formed “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to Question What Counts as “Human Rights”Mark Wilson/Getty Images
In early July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the launch of a new human rights commission to determine which rights the administration sees as legitimate. That the newly formed Commission on Unalienable Rights will be headed up by Mary Ann Glendon (above)—who served as ambassador to the Vatican during the George W. Bush administration and has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality and abortion—left LGBTQ and women’s rights advocates on edge.
Separated Families Based on HIV StatusSpencer Platt/Getty Images
Also in July, we learned the administration was using HIV status as a justification to separate families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Brian Hastings, chief of Customs & Border Patrol, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee and said HIV-positive parents are being separated from their children as it is “a communicable disease under the guidance.” When Rep. Jamie Raskin asked if a parent having the flu, a communicable disease that is more easily spread, would be sufficient for separating them from their child, Hastings replied, “We are not, sir.”
Pushed for Title IX to Be Used to Discriminate Against Trans StudentsDia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
The Department of Education (DOE), helmed by Betsy DeVos, announced in August that the federal Office for Civil Rights was investigating Connecticut’s trans-inclusive high school athletics policy in a probe that could lead to a reversal of how Title IX is interpreted. The current administration does not agree with the Obama administration’s reading of Title IX’s protections against sex discrimination as inclusive of trans people.
The complaint, submitted on the administration’s behalf by the conservative Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, named trans athletes Andraya Yearwood (above, left) and Terry Miller (above, right) and misgendered both of them.
Proposed Rule Allowing Federal Contractors to Discriminate Against LGBTQ WorkersGetty Images
In mid-August, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs proposed a policy to broaden exemptions for religious organizations receiving federal government contracts to include all organizations and businesses that could possibly cite a religious mission behind its work.
Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, director of the Trans/Gender Nonconforming Justice and Disability Justice Project for the National LGBTQ Task Force, told Rewire News that the move was “part of a greater pattern” to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people under the guise of protecting “religious freedom.”
Supported Firing LGBTQ Workers in the Private SectorGetty Images
The Supreme Court heard arguments in October for and against protecting LGBTQ workers from discrimination under Title VII, and back in August, the White House made clear where it stood on the issue. (Hint: It’s not with the LGBTQ community.)
Told Iowa Town to Erase Its Pride Crosswalks
— Michael Crumb (@MJCrumb) September 29, 2019
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration sent a letter to officials in Ames, Iowa, back in September instructing them to remove its Pride crosswalks, claiming they were a safety hazard. The town declined to follow that request, and city attorney Mark Lambert said the administration “couldn’t explain to me how they had jurisdiction over city streets, they were unaware of any penalties, and said they were still researching that.”
“Frankly, I think that according to the manual itself, there’s a good argument we’re not violating the manual, since there’s no prohibition on colors,” Lambert added.
Proposed an Anti-LGBTQ Adoption RulePascal Deloche/Getty Images
In early November, the administration proposed a rule to allow foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ families on religious grounds. “The federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith,” the White House argued in a statement.
Vice President Mike Pence praised the rule during a speech at an HHS event in honor of National Adoption Month, saying he “couldn’t be more proud that, at President Trump’s direction, and with the strong support of leaders across foster care, adoption, and our faith communities, we’ve taken decisive action.”
Rolled Back LGBTQ Health Care ProtectionsGetty Images
The White House has taken a number of steps that put the health of LGBTQ people in danger by removing protections against discrimination in the health care system. During the spring, HHS issued a final policy change giving health care workers greater ability to refuse serviced based on religious grounds.
That was soon followed up by a proposed rule to grant health care workers the right to discriminate against transgender patients, reversing a trans-inclusive Obama-era definition of protections based on sex. Then, it announced plans to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, of its transgender health protections.
But wait, there’s more. In November, HHS announced it would not prohibit grant recipients from discriminating against LGBTQ people over faith-based objections.
Proposed Final Regulations Permitting Religious Schools to Ignore Nondiscrimination Standards Set by Accrediting AgenciesErin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images
In November, the Trump administration finalized a rule permitting religious schools to ignore nondiscrimination standards set by accrediting agencies, characterizing the decision as an attempt to protect “institutional autonomy, [honor] individual campus missions, and [afford] institutions the opportunity to build campus communities based upon shared values.”
Trump also praised Second Lady Karen Pence for teaching part-time at a Christian school amid criticisms over it banning LGBTQ workers and students, and the children of LGBTQ parents.