Opinion: Trump rolled back LGBT+ rights in his final days in office

Hidden under the chaos of the Capitol riots and the lead-up to the inauguration, Donald Trump used his last remaining days in office to take away fundamental rights from those within the LGBT community. However, during his first day of office, President Joe Biden removed the discriminatory policy.

The sad thing is that initially, it worked. I saw no news headlines about Trump rolling back these protections; I had to find out this news on a Twitter post with an image of what looks like a screenshot of a CNBC post. 

The screenshot lists three last-minute changes Trump made: social service providers can discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, adoption agencies can turn away same-gender couples and homeless shelters can turn away LGBT teenagers. 

Ryan Thoreson published a piece on Human Rights Watch further explaining the changes that Trump and his administration implemented and highlighted how these changes would impact LGBT people. 

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske

“[Former] President Donald Trump had finalized yet another rule rolling back non-discrimination protections for [LGBT] people seeking the services of health and welfare programs funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services,” Thoreson wrote. 

Before the finalization of this rule, originally introduced in 2019, a federal regulation prohibited health and welfare programs that receive federal funding from discrimination against people on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The previous regulation was put in place to ensure that adoption agencies receiving federal funding would assist all parents who qualified, no matter sexual orientation or gender identity. A long-standing discriminatory belief held by many who have anti-LGBT beliefs is that a family should consist of a mother and a father to properly raise a child. However, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “the prevailing professional opinion is that a parent’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with [their] ability to be a good parent.” 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Bar Association, and the American Psychiatric Association are all professional organizations specializing in child welfare and/or health that has released policy or position statements in support of LGBT adoption and parenting. Each organization, and many more, states that no evidence suggests or supports that parents within the LGBT community are less able to be “good” parents than cisgender heterosexual parents. 

But after I read up on all of the discriminatory changes that Trump enforced, I held onto the hope that, upon his inauguration, Biden would make severe changes and roll back these rules. Thankfully, that hope was well supported. 

On his first day of office, Biden implemented 17 executive actions, rolling back many changes that Trump had put into place. This included reinforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and further ensuring that the federal government, along with federally funded programs, cannot discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. 

“This Order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination statutes that cover sex discrimination prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons,” said a press release from The White House Briefing Room

LGBT rights advocates, including HRC President Alphonso David, share that this is one of the most substantive executive orders ensuring LGBT people’s rights. Vice President of Advocacy of the Trevor Project, Sam Brinton, said in a press release, “It is a true breath of fresh air to see president Biden prioritize LGBT+ non-discrimination protections and inclusive data collection on day one, along with several other key policy changes that will protect marginalized communities.”

President Biden also signed an order on Jan. 25, which reversed another discriminatory policy that banned transgender individuals from serving in the military. Upon Biden’s signature, it immediately prohibits any person from being forced out of service based on gender identity. In a nation where military action is so valued, it is astonishing that one would disallow any qualified individual from serving, so Trump’s policy was very clearly an act of discrimination.

“America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive. The military is no exception,” the order says. “Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.” The order also states that it must relook at the records of military members who were discharged and/or denied reenlistment due to gender identity. 

This order came much earlier than many believed, but it was another strong move in the right direction. Though Trump attempted to take away the hard-won rights that the LGBT community fought to hold, Biden swiftly removed those policies, realigning with his stance in support of equality for all.

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