Trump Has Rolled Gay Rights All The Way Back… To 2016

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

David Benkof Contributor
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In a typical spasm of anti-Trump hyperbole, yesterday’s New York Times ran a front-page article decrying the ways administration bureaucrats are rolling back progressive social policies in the areas of guns, abortion, birth control, religious liberty, and sanctuary cities.

Well, maybe.

But the paper included gay rights on that list. Only a hyper-partisan, near-sighted Trump basher could consider the current administration hostile to gay rights. At most, Trump is easing away from a handful of bold policies Obama inched toward at the end of his eight-year term. If Trump is rolling back gay rights, he’s rolling them back to 2016.

In fact, many of the ways Trump has supposedly abandoned gay rights advances refer to steps the Obama Administration considered but postponed or rejected outright.

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the administration’s supposedly homophobic steps:

  • It rescinds the Obama directive that schools must let transgender youth use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. Schools are still allowed to keep such policies, which many (if not most) do. Rollback to: May 13, 2016.
  • Trump announces a ban on transgender people serving in the military, although his Defense Secretary freezes the policy pending further review. Obama’s inclusive policy is quite recent, announced just four months before President Trump’s election. Rollback to: June 30, 2016.
  • It files a brief opposing the courtroom argument that the word “sex” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be re-interpreted and broadened to include sexual orientation. While the Obama Administration applied the word “sex” to gender identity (not much of a stretch) it never did so to sexual orientation (an extreme overreach that does violence to the very idea that laws should mean what they say). Rollback to: Never.
  • President Trump signs a religious liberty order that does, basically, nothing – particularly regarding gay rights. Gay groups futilely object but cannot identify any harms. Though urged to create a sweeping policy allowing discrimination against LGBT people, he refuses, much to the quiet dismay of his Evangelical allies. Rollback to: Never.
  • It does not add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 2020 census. Such a move was vaguely discussed and rejected in the Obama years. Despite gay hyperbole about being “erased,” the census has been always silent about many subgroups, including Jews. Rollback to: Never.
  • It files a brief with the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case favoring religious liberty protections for a cake baker who declined to provide services for a gay wedding. The Obama Administration never filed a brief on any court cases on the subject. Rollback to: Never.

So what’s left? Well, The New York Times makes a big deal – with a mention in the second sentence of yesterday’s 3,500-word article – about the Justice Department scrubbing references to “L.G.B.T.Q youth” from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking. However, the Web site’s having been edited is such a non-scandal that no other news outlet including The Times has ever written about it.

Web sites are rewritten all the time, and even yesterday’s story acknowledges that some of the Administration’s Internet materials ddo mention sexual orientation. If the “scrubbing” was the result of animus toward gays, it’s an awfully selective animus.

The fact Trump has rewinded gay rights progress by a mere sixteen months must be seen in the context of Republican alternatives such as Jeb Bush and Ben Carson – and particularly Ted Cruz, who would have relished in fighting decades, not months, of gay rights progress. Trump has repeatedly bucked the political priorities of his white Evangelical allies (he got 80 percent of their vote) over his LGBT detractors (he got 14 percent of our vote).

The Trump Administration has delighted in undoing the legacy of the Obama Administration, particularly in policy areas seen as trendy or politically correct. Any reasonable study of Trump’s politics doesn’t ask why he has materially hurt the progress of gay people – but why he hasn’t.

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.