The US election has stoked both hope and fears in LGBT+ people, who have spent the past four years watching Donald Trump steadily chip away at their protections.
This terrifying rollback of rights has spanned almost every area of society, including housing, education, healthcare, employment, citizenship, the military and more.
As the homophobe-in-chief stands on the precipice of a second term, the stakes have never been higher – and there’s a very real concern that four more years of hostile policies could see the clock turn back for LGBT+ people.
Here’s what that might look like.
Donald Trump wants to roll back marriage equality.
Trump has been a consistent opponent of same-sex marriage, which he boasted in his first presidential campaign. He shares this with his notoriously homophobic vice president Mike Pence, who began building momentum to ban same-sex marriage as early as 2003, long before it was even legalised.
Marriage equality is now the law of the land but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Donald Trump’s Republican party left its 2016 platform unchanged for the 2020 elections, meaning the GOP continues to officially support the reversal of marriage equality.
Trump has already laid the groundwork. In 2016 he said he would “consider” using anti-LGBT+ Supreme Court judges to overturn the landmark marriage ruling, and he’s lived up to this promise with his appointment of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who have firmly tipped the balance of the court against LGBT+ people.
No more than a week after Trump nominated Barrett, two conservative Supreme Court justices launched a chilling attack on Obergefell vs Hodges, the case that legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote in a lengthy statement that the ruling had “ruinous consequences for religious liberty”, leaving legal experts to conclude they are eager to overturn it. With Barrett and Kavanaugh on their side, they just might succeed.
Discrimination protections under threat.
Throughout his entire presidency Trump has consistently attacked LGBT+ discrimination protections in favour of “religious freedoms”, and it’s expected that this would continue apace if he won a second term.
Thankfully his latest attempt to legalise discrimination against LGBT+ people failed in the Supreme Court, but the decision was not unanimous. More anti-LGBT+ cases are likely to be heard in the coming years and the current bench of judges may not be as favourable in their ruling.
The next big fight will be his administration’s attack on the Affordable Care Act’s LGBT+ non-discrimination protections. A rule released on 12 June would allow doctors and insurance companies to refuse care to LGBT+ people, which could have a devastating impact in the midst of a global pandemic.
The case has been put on hold due to a federal court stay but is due to be argued before the Supreme Court on 10 November, days after the election, with a final ruling expected next year.
Trump also opposes the Equality Act which would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in housing, the workplace and other settings. And his agencies are currently trying to give adoption and foster care agencies the right to refuse same-sex couples – an issue that will be Amy Coney Barrett’s first case in the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump and trans rights.
The last four years have seen a near-constant string of attacks against trans people from the Trump administration.
If Trump loses we could see see federal agencies reversing the many anti-trans policies his administration adopted, like the trans military ban, but if the Senate remains under Republican control the chance of legalised discrimination on the basis of gender identity could grow exponentially.
The potential loss of the Affordable Care Act would have huge implications for trans people, as it allows them to access potentially life-saving transition-related care, like hormone replacement therapy, vaginoplasties or mastectomies, on insurance plans.
If ACA is scrapped or narrowed it would leave countless trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people with untreated gender dysphoria, which has been linked to significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation.
They could also be refused access to federally-funded homeless shelters under a new rule proposed by Trump’s housing and urban development department.
Added to this is the continuing escalation of violence against trans people, particularly trans women of colour, which shows no sign of stopping under Trump. Hate crime levels recently reached a decade high in the US and the final year of his presidency was the deadliest for trans people since records began.
The future looks much brighter under Joe Biden.
Undoing the damage Trump has inflicted upon LGBT+ rights could take decades, but Joe Biden has promised to take action from day one.
LGBT+ rights advocates have hailed Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris as the “most pro-equality ticket in history”, and they’ve both repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to advancing anti-discrimination protections.
Crucially, Biden has pledged to pass the Equality Act within the first 100 days of his presidency. This would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.
“Now is the time to vote like your life depends on it,” was Pete Buttigieg’s message to LGBT+ youth as the presidential race nears the final straight – and with millennials voting in record numbers in key battleground states, it looks ever more likely that America could turn on Trump.