When I wrote a piece a few days after the election, “The Mike Pence (Donald Trump) Assault On LGBTQ Equality Is Already Underway,” I hoped against all hope that something might change to alter what was already happening during the Trump transition.
But in fact, much of what I reported has materialized in the first 100 days. And there’s reason to believe the second 100 days will be worse.
In the first 100 days, Trump installed viciously anti-gay individuals in his cabinet and throughout the government departments, all of whom were brought forth from the Mike Pence-run transition team, from Ben Carson and Roger Severino to Tom Price and Jeff Sessions. Trump and Sessions, the attorney general, already rescinded guidance on fighting discrimination against transgender students across the country, and had the Justice Department halt litigation against North Carolina regarding HB2 and the equally discriminatory law that replaced it. The Trump administration decided there was “no need” to move forward with the Census Bureau’s planned data collection on LGBT Americans, thereby keeping LGBTQ people invisible.
Though Trump made a spectacle of not-rescinding President Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, his administration later quietly issued an order ending data collection among contractors about such discrimination – thus basically allowing for it. Similarly, the administration stopped collecting data on discrimination against elderly LGBTQ people. Trump removed Eric Fanning as Army Secretary, appointed by President Obama and the first openly gay Army secretary in history, and has now nominated an anti-LGBTQ Tennessee legislator, Mark Green, to the job ― a man who sponsored a bill allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people and who has called transgender people “evil.”
And perhaps most consequentially, Trump placed on the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch, a constitutional originalist in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia ― by his own description ― and someone whose idea of “religious liberty” is a direct threat to LGBTQ rights.
But here’s why the next 100 days ― and after that ― could be far worse: Trump is continuing to plummet in approval ratings and he needs his base to back him ― and the GOP ― more than ever if he has any hopes of re-election and of keeping Congress in the hands of the GOP in 2018 and beyond. He just barely made it in 2016, and any softening of any part of his base will spell doom. The anti-LGBTQ religious right turned out for Trump in numbers as great or bigger than every previous recent Republican presidential.
Christian right activists are already demanding much more. They were hoping a religious liberty executive order ― which would allow for widespread discrimination against LGBT people ― would have been issued already, and were disappointed when the Trump administration early on said a leaked draft of it wasn’t coming soon.
But Trump transition official Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, told me in February it was indeed coming, and was being fine-tuned to withstand a legal challenge. Last week USA Today reported that a group of 51 GOP legislators in the House sent a letter to the White House asking for the order to be signed:
“[We] request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty, as reported by numerous outlets on February 2, 2017, in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.”
These are anti-LGBTQ legislators who backed Trump and who represent the armies of the Christian right. They’re pressuring him to move ahead with the anti-LGBTQ agenda he promised. Though the media downplayed it, Trump courted these people at events and through their media during the campaign, promising everything from “protecting” religious liberty to getting the Obergefell marriage equality ruling overturned.
Again, if Trump has illusions of winning re-election, and helping the GOP in Congress, he knows he must deliver to his base, and won’t be able to lose any of it. If you thought the GOP was done with the issue of marriage equality, for example, you need only to look at House member Randy Weber of Texas, who last week wept as he asked God to forgive the U.S. for making marriage legal for gays and lesbians ― at an event attended by the GOP House leadership (including Paul Ryan), which didn’t challenge him.
The Christian right isn’t satisfied with what they see as the crumbs Trump has given them in the first 100 days. They’re demanding much, much more, and Trump ― like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, both of whom courted the Christian right and knew they needed evangelical voters for re-election ― will feel compelled to deliver. That’s why the next 100 days and beyond are even more treacherous, and why we’ll have to pay great attention and fight back hard.