Originally published on pinknews.co.uk
LGBT activists are gearing up for tough battles in years ahead, as the Republicans retain control of Congress and Donald Trump becomes President-elect.
When Trump takes office in January, the GOP will be in full control of both the executive and the legislature for the first time since 2005.
The news means little chance for the Democrats to scupper Republican attacks on LGBT rights, with Obama previously using executive powers to defend equality from advances in Congress – something Trump has pledged not to do.
The Republican Platform passed earlier this year contained some of the most anti-LGBT provisions in decades, attacking same-sex adoption and parenting and opposing a ban on ‘gay cure’ therapy, while lawmakers have drawn up bills affirming ‘religious freedom’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.
The President-elect has not released a policy plan on LGBT rights, and also has no policy plan on HIV/AIDS.
Once a moderate on LGBT issues, Trump has wholesale adopted of a number of hardline evangelical policy planks.
His running mate Mike Pence has confirmed a plan to dismantle Barack Obama’s protections for LGBT people, as part of an ‘immediate’ review of executive orders issued by President Obama.
Also significantly, President-elect Trump has pledged to sign the Republican-backed First Amendment Defence Act, a law that would permit forms of anti-LGBT discrimination on the grounds of religion.
In a speech to Catholic interest groups, Mr Trump confirmed he would not veto the law, which bans the government from taking any “action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman”.
The broadly-written law would part-legalise religious discrimination against LGBT people in all sectors, from employment to retail to healthcare, banning the government from intervening.
In passing FADA, Trump and Pence would be required to repeal Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order that extended LGBT anti-discrimination protections to federal contractors.
Mike Pence confirmed this intention, pledging to pare back President Obama’s orders on LGBT rights so that “the transgender bathroom issue can be resolved with common sense at the local level”.
Likewise, the Republican victory confirms that the Democrat-backed Equality Act – a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to finally outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation on a federal level – is now effectively dead in the water.
Donald Trump’s plan for the Supreme Court also raises questions of an impact on LGBT rights.
As President, he is likely to be responsible for filling two or three seats on the highest court in the US, where most LGBT rights battles have been decided by a narrow 5-4 majority.
During the Presidential debates, Trump confirmed that he would appoint justices in the mould of the late Antonin Scalia, who opposed the decriminalisation of sodomy and penned a blistering dissent against the equal marriage ruling.
A public shortlist of Supreme Court candidates released by Mr Trump features only anti-LGBT conservatives, after the hopeful said he would “consider” using his appointments to overturn equal marriage.
If an anti-LGBT majority is built up on the Supreme Court, a harmful precedent on LGBT rights could be established for decades, not just for four years.
There are many issues that may end up before the court – from transgender rights, to anti-discrimination protections, to ramifications from the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling – which could be set back.
Mr Trump has affirmed his support for local state anti-transgender laws, though he does not have a declared national policy on the issue.
Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign has vowed to fight on.
He said: “Throughout our nation’s history, we’ve faced devastating setbacks in our pursuit of a more perfect union. But even in the darkest of moments, Americans have summoned the courage and persistence to fight on. The results of tonight’s presidential election require us to meet tomorrow with the same resolve and determination.
“This is a crucial moment for our nation and for the LGBTQ movement. The election of a man who stands opposed to our most fundamental values has left us all stunned. There will be time to analyze the results of this election, but we cannot afford to dwell. We must meet these challenges head on.
“Over the last 18 months, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have intentionally sowed fear and division for cynical political purposes. They now face a decision about whether they will also govern that way. We hope, for the sake of our nation and our diverse community – which includes women, people of color, those with disabilities, immigrants, and people of all faiths and traditions – they will choose a different path.
“For our part, HRC will continue our fight for equality and justice for all with greater urgency and determination than ever before. We must. Lives literally depend on it.”
Mr Griffin added: “Despite the outcome of this presidential race, we know that the tide has irreversibly turned in favour of LGBTQ equality. Today, we draw strength from the vast majority of Americans who believe that our lives and rights are worth fighting for. Thanks to you and your tireless work, we deployed the largest get out the vote effort in our organisation’s history.
“In North Carolina, it appears we have defeated the hateful Governor Pat McCrory and helped elect Roy Cooper to repeal HB2. We were proud to support Hillary Clinton, and she made history as the most pro-equality candidate to ever run for president of the United States.
“The defeats we have suffered tonight demonstrate that our future victories will require us to dig deeper and work harder to continue bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice and equality. We must fight to protect our progress, and to limit the damage that Donald Trump has promised.
“To every LGBTQ person across this nation feeling stunned and disheartened, and questioning if they have a place in our country today, I say this: You do. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise. Be bold, be strong, and continue to stand up for the principles that have always made America great.
“At a time like this, we don’t slow down. We double down. Tomorrow, HRC will set to work once again, undeterred and focused on our mission to realize a world in which every single LGBTQ person is safe and equal and valued.”
President-elect Trump will take office in January.