Steve Starkey: LGBT community must be ever vigilant in time of Trump – Madison.com

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Donald Trump campaigned on being supportive of the LGBT community. Analyzing whether that was true or an empty campaign promise, so far, has been often overshadowed by unrelated policy shifts and nearly constant news from the White House.

Since Trump was sworn in as president in January there have been so many controversial news stories. Trump has signed more than 35 executive orders, and several have been halted in court. Banning immigration from six mostly Muslim countries, building a wall on the Mexican border and replacing Obamacare are just a few of the topics that dominated the headlines in the first 100 days of his presidency. The investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and recent firing of FBI Director James Comey have also added to the chaos in the early part of Trump’s presidency.

While these measures have not been specifically aimed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, they nevertheless stand to deeply impact and disrupt the lives of LGBT Muslims and undocumented individuals and families. An attack on one member of the LGBT community is an attack on all of us.

Additionally, there have been several specific laws and policies passed since Trump was inaugurated that have negatively affected the LGBT community. Here are some of the anti-LGBT actions that have taken place these past four months:

• The Trump administration removed all mention of LGBT issues from the White House website as soon as he took office.

• Trump has appointed many anti-LGBT members to all levels of federal government. Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Neil Gorsuch and Betsy DeVos all have a history of support for anti-LGBT policies.

• The Department of Justice dropped its defense of Obama-era protections for transgender students. Trump then signed an executive order rolling back Title IX guidance that required public school protections for transgender students.

• In March, the Census Bureau removed sexual orientation and gender identity from the list of topics for potential inclusion on the 2020 census. Several senators are demanding answers on whether this was due to political interference by the Trump administration.

• The Department of Health and Human Services eliminated questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on two critical health surveys about the needs of elderly and disabled people.

• The federal Justice Department dropped its lawsuit against North Carolina over the state’s replaced “bathroom bill.”

It is important to note, however, that there have also been some victories for LGBT rights this year.

• In a historic decision, the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1965 protects lesbian and gay employees from discrimination. This is the first time a federal court has ruled on this issue, which now protects LGBT people in states that do not have LGBT nondiscrimination laws.

• An early leaked version of the religious freedom executive order included pages of anti-LGBT policies, but after citizens pushed back, they were not included in the final bill.

• The Georgia legislature failed to change House Bill 159, which would have allowed state-funded adoption agencies to not work with LGBT couples if they did not wish to.

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• After nearly a yearlong battle with his school district, a federal appeals court said a transgender student who identifies as a male should be able to use the boys’ bathroom at his Wisconsin high school.

• Here in the Madison area, Sun Prairie passed a nondiscrimination law protecting transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodation.

The lesson we can take from all of the above is that LGBT people and our allies must remain more vigilant than ever. We must continue to be aware of legislation aimed at rolling back our hard-fought rights, and we must fight to keep those laws in place. We must also continue to advance laws that will give us more protections.

LGBT organizations must collaborate, cooperate and work in coalitions so our voices are amplified and we build synergy and power in order to take on the right-wing revolution that intends to crush us and roll back all the rights we have won.

We have come so far over the past four decades, and we must not allow Trump and the right wing to obliterate all that we have achieved.

Steve Starkey, OutReach LGBT Community Center, on behalf of the center and Megin McDonell, Fair Wisconsin; Brian Juchems, GSA for Safe Schools; Morathi Adams, Freedom, Inc.; Sande Janagold, New Harvest Foundation; and Jay Botsford, Wisconsin Transgender Health Coalition

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