There’s been some degree of relief among liberals that the legacy of President Barack Obama is proving more difficult to dismantle than many — including President Donald Trump — had anticipated. The Affordable Care Act, for the moment, remains the law of the land. The Iran nuclear deal has not been “torn up,” as Trump promised it would be. Obama’s historic measures to improve relations with Cuba have not been undone.
And both Trump and his recently confirmed Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, have publicly acknowledged that same-sex marriage, which was made legal by the nation’s highest court in 2015, is settled law. For some reason, they get credit for this. If a president were to begrudgingly admit that, say, desegregation was “settled law,” we’d likely be less than impressed. Worse still, if that president simultaneously took actions to further disadvantage the very same people who were victims of segregation, we’d likely regard him as a cruel and disingenuous hack.
So while Trump has reaped the benefits (such as they are) of being the most pro-LGBTQ Republican nominee in history, which is sort of like being the most pro-fish shark in history, his actions on LGBTQ rights are actually an area where he’s been particularly successful at dismantling the Obama legacy.
Two weeks ago, he rescinded an Obama executive order that required firms doing business with the federal government to prove that they didn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A previous executive order, requiring that firms contracted by the federal government not practice such discrimination, remains in place, but companies no longer have to prove their compliance with it, which creates a loophole.
Mark Green, Trump’s nominee to replace outgoing Army Secretary Eric Fanning — the first openly gay head of any U.S. military service — has alarmed LGBTQ advocacy groups. Last year Green said that “transgender is a disease” and suggested that supposed federal overreach on same-sex marriage and the rights of transgender people might lead to “civil disobedience” and armed insurrection.
In February, the Trump administration ordered the nation’s schools to disregard guidelines issued by the Obama administration asserting the right of transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the issue was “best solved at the state and local level” — as if transgender students have different fundamental human rights in Seattle than they do in South Dakota.
Meanwhile, at the state and local level, assaults on LGBTQ rights continue with radio silence from the Trump administration. In March, the North Carolina legislature passed a “repeal” of the state’s notorious anti-LGBTQ law that left in place many of the law’s discriminatory measures. Here in Texas, a bill that would let county clerks refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses is making its way through the Senate.
Unlike his hero Andrew Jackson, whose painting hangs prominently in the Oval Office, Trump has yet to defy the Supreme Court outright — nor is he likely to, for what it’s worth. But the president once promised to do “everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” and while he pronounced “LGBTQ” like he was ordering a sandwich, you could be forgiven for thinking that he meant it. Alas, it seems hateful domestic ideologies are another matter entirely for this president.
Groves is a government sophomore from Dallas. He is a Senior Coluumnist, follow him on Twitter @samgroves