In 1969, Marsha P. Johnson, known as The Saint of Christopher Street, threw the shot glass heard around the world. According to many, she was the catalyst for the Stonewall Riots, and was without a doubt, one of the first in the LGBT community to resist the police in a physical way. I just watched a documentary about her.
She was feisty, to say the least, but in the same way as your favorite aunt. Every bone in her body was at the same time passionate and polite, introspective and extroverted, savvy and consciously naïve. She lived as a human unicorn in NYC’s unsafe West Village streets. Often ridiculed for her appearance, she wholeheartedly believed she was beautifully and authentically true to herself. She was the type of person to say hello to everyone because she believed a new friendship was only a greeting away. A staple of the queer community, she would never live to see her impact.
It’s been nearly 48 years since the Stonewall Riots. While heroes and allies seem countless, from Bayard Rutstin and Harvey Milk to Barack Obama and Laverne Cox, the current challenges facing the LGBTQ community seem just as plentiful.
The LGBTQ community is no stranger to political opposition. It took Ronald Reagan over 30 press conferences after HIV/AIDS was first discovered to address it. He still didn’t call it by name, and his response was shrouded in judgement and a severe lack of empathy. Why? The disease was primarily affecting the gay community. While countless people were dying, President Reagan was implying those infected were merely reaping their reward for their sins. The public agreed, further issuing their judgement, saying those who had HIV/AIDS were immoral and deserving of the plight. Even after Rock Hudson died and Ryan White was allowed to go back to school, most people didn’t care for those afflicted.
Then, while he was the first presidential candidate to court the gay vote, President Bill Clinton signed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA. It wasn’t until 2009 that Clinton’s position on marriage equality softened, and it took him an additional four years to write, “I now know that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, [DOMA] itself is discriminatory. It should be overturned.”
More recently, President Obama was a force of positive change for the LGBTQ community, and much progress has been made. There’s still so much work to be done, however, especially when you fast forward to 2017. Trump’s administration is clearly anti-LGBTQ.
- Vice President
- In 2000, Pence stated on his website that money intended to go to HIV/AIDS relief should “be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” This statement has aligned him with those in favor of conversion therapy.
- In 2006, Pence called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God's idea.” He implied that gay couples signaled societal collapse.
- In 2007, Pence voted against The Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would have banned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. Later, he said the law "wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace." More than 20 years after the bill was first introduced, the Senate approved the proposal in 2013, but the bill failed in the House.
- Pence opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In 2010, a year before the policy was repealed, Pence told CNN he did not want to see the military become "a backdrop for social experimentation."
- In 2015, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. After tremendous pressure from the LGBTQ and business communities, Pence signed an amendment correcting “the perception” of discrimination.
- In 2016, when the Obama administration directed schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching the gender they identify with, Pence spoke up in opposition, saying “The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”
- Attorney General. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Jeff Sessions equated opposing marriage equality to opposing slavery.
- Sessions voted again The Violence Against Women’s Act, which has provisions for those with non-binary gender identifications and sexual orientations. In 2009, he said, “Today I’m not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. I just don’t see it.”
- A press release from the Human Right’s Campaign stated, that Sessions voted for a Constitutional ban on marriage equality; spoke in opposition of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell; voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); is a cosponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that could allow Kim Davis-style discrimination against LGBTQ people across the nation; voted against both the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender and disability and against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
- It’s important to note that the ACLU characterizes Sessions’ voting record as anti-civil rights.
- Interior Secretary. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- In a Montana debate with his opponent, Denise Juneau, Zinke implied that she chose to be a lesbian, drawing boos from the crowd.
- Zinke opposes marriage equality.
- Zinke voted to add an anti-LGBT provision that would allow sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination in all federal agencies, not just the Department of Defense.
- Commerce Secretary. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- In another case of “locker room talk,” Ross was caught presiding over a meeting of Wall Street elites where homophobic jokes, including some about Congressman Barney Frank.
- Secretary of Health and Human Services. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Price called marriage equality “a sad day for marriage.”
- Price voted against The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
- On transgender issues, Price called the Obama administration’s guidelines to schools “absurd” in a Facebook post last May.
- Price supported fired Atlanta Police Chief Kelvin Cochran after Cochran was suspended for remarks he made about gay people in a book, calling homosexuality a “sexual perversion” and comparing homosexuality to sex with animals and pederasty.
- Price supports Rabbi Noson Leiter, who blamed Hurricane Sandy on New York’s marriage equality law and warned about the “tremendous medical health impact and economic impact” of the “homosexual agenda.” Leiter asked Price to lead congress in an investigation studying the “fiscal impact” that “promoting such a lifestyle will result in.”
- It’s important to mention the possible rollback of health services for LGBTQ people, particularly a shift in Medicaid to block grants awarded to states, which could spell cuts in HIV programs.
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Ben Carson has been criticized for comments he made on Sean Hannity’s show where he compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.
- Carson says that opposition to same-sex marriage is the only thing preventing the U.S. from descending into “utter chaos.”
- In his confirmation hearing as Director of Housing and Urban Development, Carson was asked if LGBTQ people should enjoy the same rights as everyone else. His response was questionable, asserting that nobody deserves extra rights.
- Carson compares being transgender to changing ethnicities, calling transgender people absurd.
- On a Sirius XM interview, Carson asserted that LGBT and single parents are not of "equal value" to straight married parents.
- Carson told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that prison makes people gay. He later submitted an apology for his poor choice of words, and in that statement, he dismissed transgender people.
- Energy Secretary. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Perry supported Mike Pence’s draconian religious freedom bill.
- On equating LGBTQ people to alcoholics, Perry said he “stepped in it.”
- Perry compared efforts to keep the ban on gay Boy Scouts to efforts by Sam Houston to oppose slavery and secession just before the Civil War.
- Perry denounced the Obama administration for promoting LGBT rights internationally saying, “Investing tax dollars promoting a lifestyle many Americans of faith find so deeply objectionable is wrong.”
- An ad released by Perry stated, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but your kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
- In his first presidential campaign, Perry signed an anti-equality pledge put out by the National Organization for Marriage. The pledge, which he signed in 2011, included backing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, nominating anti-equality federal judges, and defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
- Perry also made several lame gay-related jokes about his Republican rivals, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
- When the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws, Perry wrote his response in his 2010 book: “Texans have a different view of the world than do the nine oligarchs in robes.”
- Education Secretary. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- While The New York Times ran a story of her history of personal support for the LGBTQ community, including a transgender woman under her jurisdiction, many claim that her prolific support of organizations aligned with conversion therapy is more than troublesome. The New York Times story further reports that DeVos was chairwoman of the Michigan state Republican party in 2004 when an effort to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s Constitution made headway. According to the story, her colleagues said she was lukewarm to the idea at best.
- Her critics are questioning her association with her family’s donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations, like Focus on the Family. Millions have been given to oppose marriage equality and otherwise advance the rhetoric of anti-LGBTQ hate groups. As Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire said, “it’s hard to believe that she was listed as vice president of the Prince Foundation for 13 years and yet have no involvement with, or knowledge of, the millions of dollars in donations made to anti-LGBTQ groups that promote intolerance.”
- DeVos is enigmatic. It would certainly help if she would definitively claim that LGBTQ people, especially students across the country, deserve full equality and respect in their schools.
- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Pruitt opposed the Obama administration’s guidance to schools regarding transgender students. He acted on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and joined 10 other states in filing a lawsuit to block implementation. Because of his adamancy, Pruitt has been called “head bully.”
- Pruitt is a staunch opponent of marriage equality.
- Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- When Democrats introduced an amendment to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors, Mulvaney called it "a political move designed to shipwreck the appropriations process."
- Mulvaney is a co-sponsor for the discriminatory First Amendment Defense Act.During a political race, Mulvaney launched a false robocall that aligned his opponent with pro-LGBTQ causes in order to cost her votes. He pitted constituents against his opponent by using the LGBTQ community.
- Director of National Intelligence. Awaiting Senate confirmation.
- Coats voted against prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Coats was a leading opponent of Bill Clinton’s 1993 effort to let lesbian, gay, and bisexual troops serve openly, fighting instead to retain a complete ban, a position more extreme than then–Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell’s willingness to allow gays and lesbians to serve as long as they hid their sexual orientation. Coats claimed that equal treatment would “seriously undermine the effectiveness, the normal discipline [and] the good order” necessary to retain military capability. He even equated permitting openly gay service with condoning sexual harassment.
- Coats refused to sign a nondiscrimination policy for his own congressional office. He argued that same-sex marriage was a sign of “deep moral confusion” and voted against the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, a bill that sought merely to track, not punish, bias-motivated violence.
- In 1996, Coats called marriage equality and attempt to “undermine marriage by trendy moral relativism.”
- Coats is one of the authors of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that mandated LGBT service members could not serve openly or honestly, causing more than 14,000 of them to be fired from the military. He opposed its repeal.
Here we are. Less than two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency. So many are already asking themselves, “What can I do?” To me, the answer is clear. Be yourself, and demand equality! In other words: