Supporters of LGBTQ equality fly Human Rights Campaign flags in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop case on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington.
( Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign
Tanzina Vega: I'm Tanzina Vega and we're back with The Takeaway. Since taking office, President Donald Trump has chipped away at the rights of the LGBTQ community in the United States, from barring transgender people from openly serving in the military to preventing US embassies from flying pride flags. The President has also appointed more than 200 conservative judges and just announced conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris have been dubbed, "the most pro-equality" ticket in history by LGBTQ activists like Alphonso David, who run Human Rights Campaign, one of the biggest LGBTQ advocacy groups. Though Biden his promised to try and undo Trump's damage to the LGBTQ community, it's not going to be easy. Joining me now is Kate Sosin, an LGBTQ+ reporter at The 19th. Kate, welcome back to the show.
Kate Sosin: Thanks for having me.
Tanzina: We mentioned a bunch of changes to policy that the Trump administration has taken that many say are anti-LGBTQ. Are there any others that stand out?
Kate: GLAAD has total 181 attacks that they say this administration has taken against the LGBTQ community. You can go on for quite some time. On day one, the Trump administration removed mentions of LGBTQ people on the White House website.
The administration flat-funded HIV work globally, which had a bad impact on the pandemic actually for all of us because it meant that these centers all over the world were less prepared to deal with the pandemic. He has pushed to allow shelters to turn away transgender people who are already disproportionately homeless. That's the big issue that's happening right now. The list really goes on and on, but those are some big ones. Then of course, removing anti-discrimination protections that protect trans people in the Affordable Care Act has been a really big for the community.
Tanzina: We mentioned also, Kate, the federal judiciary, which the President has been very successful and has made a key point of his administration. He's appointed more than 200 judges at that level. What has that meant for the LGBTQ community?
Kate: It seems like Republicans have historically really focused on and progressive people, especially in the LGBTQ community have been less focused on. In appointing these judges, there's going to be generations of conservative calls. Of course the Supreme Court is going to be the biggest one. Amy Coney Barrett served as faculty of the Alliance for Defending Freedoms, Blackstone Legal Fellowship. For those who don't know, the Alliance for Defending Freedom has been labeled as a hate group by several organizations.
They have fought for the criminalization of homosexuality abroad in places like Jamaica, Belize. They have worked for the sterilization of trans people in European governments in order to update their IDs. They equate LGBT people with pedophiles. A lot of these judges that we've seen appointed actually have ties with these vehemently anti-LGBTQ organizations.
When these issues come to the bench that fuel with LGBTQ rights, that's a scary prospect for a lot of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ legal advocates. That's not something that will be undone in the next year or four years should we see a Biden presidency.
Tanzina: Let's talk about Joe Biden. He's been vocal about making LGBTQ issues a priority in the White House if elected, but what has his record been on these issues, particularly when he was vice-president under President Obama?
Kate: Joe Biden has been held up as a champion of LGBTQ equality, especially by older generations. Because in 2012, he came out for marriage equality, in a surprise way. Him doing that forced President Obama shortly thereafter to come out for marriage equality. That was seen as a moment that forced the country to grapple with this and it felt like a snowball effect after that.
We saw the defensive marriage act overturn and then we saw the legalization of marriage nationwide. He has been held up as a champion and at the same time he stumbled over trans issues and sometimes keeping up with more nuanced words. A lot of people, I think, on the more progressive left wanted to see a more progressive pick with Joe Biden maybe not being that. At the same time, I think LGBTQ people by and large are going to fall all over themselves to vote for Biden, for Harris on these issues, that he has a full platform on LGBTQ issues.
It deals with things in holistic way. Right now we have a crisis of violence against transgender women and the Biden platform deals with the fact that by and large trans people face really serious unemployment discrimination, lack of housing and that those are things that put trans people right in a way of violence.
Tanzina: The former vice president is also supporting something called the Equality Act. What would that do?
Kate: The Equality Act is something that just about every Democrat who jumped into the race in 2020 supported. The Equality Act would enshrine civil rights protections into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meaning that in public accommodations, in employment protections, in all ways of life, it would become illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
As we saw the Supreme Court ruled that you can't fire LGBTQ people just because they're LGBTQ. With the Supreme Court that we have coming up, though, there might be carve-outs to that, which means that if you have a religious objection to following that law, the Supreme Court might make an exception for you, which means that that law doesn't really mean very much. If you can claim an exception, the law doesn't really hold. A lot of people have said, we really need the Equality Act, Congress needs to do this and it extends those protections because in most states, it's still legal to fire someone if they are LGBTQ.
Tanzina: Amy Coney Barrett has officially been nominated to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat on the Supreme Court. What do we know about how she would rule on cases involving LGBTQ rights? Does anything point to her judicial pass to explain that? Does anything can give us a sense of how she might land on some of these issues?
Kate: Yes. Amy Coney Barrett is of course seen as a conservative justice and she had stated that she does have certain personal beliefs that those personal beliefs should never come into the way that she would rule. That's an important thing to know. It's also important to note though, the past Supreme Court nominees have also said the same thing and then ruled in ways that align with the Alliance for Defending Freedom.
One of the things that is most alarming to a lot of LGBTQ people is that Amy Coney Barrett has given talks that refer to transgender women as men and that she believes that it would strain the text of the law to allow transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their gender in public.
Tanzina: Kate Sosin is the LGBTQ+ reporter at The 19th. Kate, thanks for joining me.
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