I went to Mount Holyoke College and it was some of the happiest, most formative years of my life. Among other things, it taught me to be a strong feminist and an enthusiastic supporter of women. Yesterday, my Facebook feed was full of my fellow alumna posting pictures of them in pantsuits headed off to vote and cheering on the hope of the first female President (a Seven Sisters alumna, to boot!). 96 years after women gained universal suffrage in the United States, we might finally get a female commander in chief. The glass ceiling would be broken! And not just any woman candidate, either, but one of the most politically experienced candidates of any gender ever to run for President in the United States: a former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. I went to bed at 10:30 pm when it appeared that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump were—unexpectedly—not only equal, but Trump was leading. I had a sense of foreboding.
At 11:30 pm, I got the call from my girlfriend: Clinton had lost. She could no longer make up the delegates necessary to overtake Trump in the Electoral College. Women would not get their first female President, and the centenarians who had waited their whole lives to cast their vote for a woman would never see a woman President. Not only that, but the Republicans now had control of the Senate and House of Representatives as well, with the possibility of taking the Supreme Court in the next four years if any of the current liberal-leaning Justices retires or passes away (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest at 83). In short, in a matter of hours the Republicans had won two of the three branches of government, with strong chances for co-opting the third as well. My phone vibrated all morning as my Democrat friends reacted to the news.
Friends, I will be honest with you: I cried twice at work today. Both times, it was not because any particular candidate lost, but out of fear for the future of LGBT rights. It is not a partisan comment to say that the Republican Party has been clear about its desire to roll back some recent LGBT gains. After the Republican Party adopted its platform in July, Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans—a Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies—termed it “most anti-LGBT platform” ever. The Republican platform is important because it represents the party’s policy positions; an anti-LGBT platform signals that Republicans in the White House, House and Senate will adopt anti-LGBT voting records for the next four years. If we view it as a roadmap for what the Republicans want to accomplish in the next few years, here’s what we may see:
Efforts to Repeal Gay Marriage
The Republican platform calls for overturning the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges:
Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law. We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The platform adds:
Five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Court twisted the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment beyond recognition. To echo Scalia, we dissent. We, therefore, support the appointment of justices and judges who respect the constitutional limits on their power and respect the authority of the states to decide such fundamental social questions.
Efforts to Minimize Anti-Discrimination Legislation
The Republican platform also condemns “redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.” While at the time this was mostly interpreted by the media as a reference to transgender issues, its implications are actually much broader: under Obama, the federal government—specifically, the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission—has used the sex provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prosecute cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well as gender identity. If the Republican-led government reverts to a narrow, gender-only interpretation of the provision, millions of workers will lose their legal protections because outside of Title VII there is no federal law that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the private sector. Moreover, sexual orientation is only a protected class for government workers and federal contractors through Executive Order 13672, meaning that if Trump repeals the order, there will be no federal public sector protections either.
Possible Efforts to Limit Gay Adoption?
Finally, the Republican platform roundly rejects the idea of LGBT parents, stating:
“The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad…Our laws and our government’s regulations should recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
According to the account of the first and only openly LGBT person to serve on the Republican platform committee that drafted this positions, the committee voted down every amendment that offered softened or inclusive language about the LGBT community.
As for President-elect Trump himself, he has vacillated publicly on gay rights, but recently seems to have fallen more on a conservative than liberal side. Trump, who a former national political director of the Log Cabin Republicans has called “the most pro-gay Republican nominee” ever, famously attended Elton John’s wedding in 2005 and said “If two people dig each other, they dig each other,” but but he told political pundit Bill O’Reilly he opposed gay marriage in March 2011 during his last presidential run. In 2000, Trump supported adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and this February claimed the country would see “forward motion” on LGBT rights under his presidency. However, he has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defence Act, a law that would permit forms of anti-LGBT discrimination on the grounds of religion.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who may stand to rule as a shadow head of state if Trump is elected, is even more socially conservative. The following are some of Pence’s stances on major LGBT issues:
In his acceptance speech as the Republican Presidential candidate in July, Trump promised to protect “LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology”—the first time a Republican presidential nominee has positively mentioned the LGBT community during an acceptance speech at a Republican National Convention. In October, he took a rainbow flag on which was written “LGBT for Trump” and paraded around with it wordlessly. Does this mean he’ll be softer on gay rights than his party’s platform? Right now, it feels like a stretch. So it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to cry. Readers, how are you reacting to and coping with the election results?