Trump and Pence take power
Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been officially sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.
The billionaire reality star and his political running mate took their oaths of office to officially succeed Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
As Trump and Pence take office, the GOP are now 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 President has not released a policy plan on LGBT rights, and also has no policy plan on HIV/AIDS.
However last year’s Trump-backed GOP Platform 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.
Once a moderate on LGBT issues, Trump has wholesale adopted of a number of hardline evangelical policy planks.
One of the new President’s only direct policy pledges it 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 Republicans assuming control 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.
A hardline evangelical who has not supported a single LGBT reform across nearly two decades in politics, VP Pence has one of the worst records on equality of any President or Vice President in recent memory.
The Governor of Indiana stirred up international outrage in 2015 when he signed Indiana’s controversial ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’, giving businesses the right to discriminate against gay people on the grounds of religion.
Pence claimed the law was intended to “protect” organisations from having to provide services for same-sex weddings, saying: “I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier [Indiana citizen] of every faith.
“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack.”
Last year appeared unable to answer when asked whether it should be legal to fire people because of their sexuality.
In a clip, Pence was asked “Yes or no: do you believe gay and transgender people should be able to be fired from their jobs just for that reason only?”
After an awkward ten-second silence, Pence attempted to stall, responding: “It’s a great privilege to be your Governor.”
Fudging a response, he said: “My position as I expressed in the state of the State address is that we are a state with a constitution, and as you know… that constitution has very strong safeguards for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.”
Just a few months ago Pence confirmed plans to roll back Barack Obama’s executive protections on LGBT rights, so that “the transgender bathroom issue can be resolved with common sense at the local level”.
He said: “This is such an example of an administration that seems to have… there’s no area of our lives too small for them to want to regulate, no aspect of our constitution too large for them to ignore.
“Donald Trump and I both believe these questions can be resolved with common sense at the local level.”
“These issues are resolved in the state of Indiana whenever they come up, and they should be resolved, for the safety and wellbeing of our children first and foremost, their privacy and rights, and with common sense. Donald Trump and I simply believe all of these issues are best resolved at the state level, by communities.”
He added: “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools. It’s just one more example of the heavy hand of this administration, and Donald Trump and I will stand by that common-sense people that when it comes to our kids, and the operation of our schools, those decisions should be made at the local level.
“Washington DC has no business imposing its bill and its values on communities around the nation.”
Governor Pence previously suggested that HIV prevention funding be drained in order to fund state-sponsored ‘gay cure’ therapy.
On a 2000 Congressional campaign website, he wrote: “Congress should support the reauthorisation of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
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Pence has never walked back the claim.
An investigation also found that Pence approved extreme anti-LGBT articles when he was the head of the Indiana Policy Review journal in the 1990s.
In an item published under his editorial tenure in the December 1993 issue, Pence’s journal criticised The Wall Street Journal for taking part in a job fair for gay journalists – suggesting that “gaydom” was a “pathological condition”, and arguing that gay journalists would be biased in their coverage because of their sexuality.
It claimed: “The more extreme of the gay movement consider themselves members of a sexual determined political party.”
Another edition published in 1993 attacked Bill Clinton for reforms to permit closeted gay people to serve in the army.
It claimed: “Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”