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LGBTQ+ Rights

were getting chipped away by the people who the Trump administration put in power and their policies



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Why It Matters

  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people already experience greater barriers to accessing health care than non-LGBTQ+ people.

  • Yet, the Trump-Pence administration repeatedly tried to take away LGBTQ+ people’s rights.

  • Examples include: trying to strip transgender people of their recognized identities and civil rights protections, putting barriers in the way of LGBTQ+ people’s access to health care, and nominating judges and officials with strong anti-LGBTQ+ records.

Key Players

Donald Trump

President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Resigned: 11-07-2018
Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

Nominated by Trump: 11-23-2016
Alex Azar

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Nominated by Trump: 11-13-2017
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019
Tony Perkins

Commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Appointed: 5-14-2018
Matthew Bowman

Principal Advisor at the Office of Civil Rights, Former Deputy General Counsel (HHS)

Appointed to HHS: March 2017
Roger Severino

Director of the Office of Civil Rights (HHS)

Appointed: March 2017
Scott Lloyd

Former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS)

Resigned: June 2019


The Takeaway: The Trump administration’s policies signal that the government won’t protect LGBTQ+ people in a range of areas

  • 6-16-2020
    Supreme Court rules against the DOJ’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act; the decision protects employees from discrimination for their gender identity or sexual orientation

  • 1-16-2020
    Administration proposes "religious liberty" regulations that would eliminate protections for people who rely on federally funded programs and services, and make it easier for faith-based organizations to receive federal funds domestically and abroad
  • 8-14-2019
    Department of Labor proposes plan to let employers with federal contractors discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers

  • 5-24-2019
    Administration proposes to roll back ACA non-discrimination protections in marketplace and other federally administered insurance plans
  • 5-2-2019
    Administration finalizes refusal rule to protect health workers who deny care based on personal belief; rule scheduled to take effect Nov. 22 if not blocked by the courts

  • 4-12-2019
    Trump's ban on transgender soldiers serving in the military goes into effect
  • 10-21-2018
    LGBTQ allies and advocates hold mass protests; #WontBeErased goes viral
  • 10-21-2018
    The government says it plans to erase civil rights protections for trans people
  • 2-26-2018
    DOJ argues that the Civil Rights Act doesn’t protect workers from sexual orientation discrimination, giving the green light for bosses to fire gay and lesbian workers
  • 10-4-2017 
    DOJ says the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn’t prohibit job discrimination based on gender identity, giving the green light for bosses to fire transgender workers
  • 2-22-2017 
    DOJ rescinds civil rights protections for transgender students


“I shudder to think of what could happen if my daughter... has to go to a hospital where a Christian doctor might have a moral objection to her.”

The Effects

Restrictions on LGBTQ+ people’s rights harm the more than 10 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as their friends and families. The Trump administration’s efforts to chip away at LGBTQ+ people’s rights was set to cause many of them to lose access to health care — including those who are low income; living with chronic illness; or have pre-existing conditions, like HIV.

The administration’s other efforts against the LGBTQ+ community include a refusal rule to let health care workers deny services to LGBTQ+ people, a new government office to protect those providers, rolling back non-discrimination protections in health care coverage, and cutting federal funding for LGBTQ+ programs. 

Every person — no matter their gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation — deserves equality under the law.

Background on LGBTQ+ Rights

Supreme Court Thwarts Administration’s Narrow Defininition of Sex Discrimination

One of the key ways that the Trump administration targeted LGBTQ+ rights was advocating to define gender as being binary, unchangeable, and determined by one’s genitals at birth — regardless of how people identify. In October 2017, the Department of Justice determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits sex discrimination — would no longer protect transgender people from employment discrimination. On June 16, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the DOJ’s reversal. The ruling protects employees from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for their gender identity, as well as for their sexual orientation.

NBC News
Attacking Health Care Access for Marginalized Communities

In January 2020, agencies including HHS and USAID proposed rules to make it easier for faith-based groups to receive taxpayer funding while promoting their religion and not sharing secular alternatives with patients. This proposal was set to make it more likely that taxpayer dollars end up supporting culturally incompetent providers that deny services to marginalized communities — including LGBTQ+ people, women, and religious minorities. In turn, this policy could impact peoples' access to HIV and STD prevention programs, reproductive health services, youth homelessness services, and foster care and adoption services both domestically and abroad.

Daily Consequences of Not Recognizing Trans Identity

Without accurate legal identification, trans people also would have difficulty with a variety of tasks related to everyday living. That includes difficulty renting a house, enrolling in college, starting a new job, opening a bank account, or freely traveling.  All these consequences fall hardest on trans people of color, who already face systemic racism.

National Center for Transgender Equality
Refusals: Empowering Clinicians to Turn Away LGBTQ+ Patients

The administration proposed a refusal rule to empower health care workers to deny LGBTQ+ people health care — blocking them from services like HIV treatment, hormone therapy, abortion, and and other services that health care workers believe are wrong. The refusal rule also would empower health care workers to deny LGBTQ+ people basic care just because the workers oppose their patients’ identity. The rule was scheduled to take effect Nov. 22.

Planned Parenthood Action
Cutting Funding for LGBTQ+ Programs

President Trump’s 2020 budget aimed to cut funding for services and programs that are essential to LGBTQ+ people.

Proposed ACA Rule to Nix Discrimination Protections in Health Plans

In another proposed rule, the Trump-Pence administration tried to change the government’s interpretation of the ACA’s non-discrimination provision. Also known as Section 1557 and the Health Care Rights Law, the ACA’s non-discrimination provision prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex, national origin, disability status, and age. Before the Trump-Pence administration came to power, the federal government interpreted this law in a way that protects people from discrimination based on gender identity, sex-stereotyping and more in marketplace plans and other health care programs that the government helps run. The administration’s proposed rule would interpret the law more narrowly, rolling back protections for transgender people, among others.

Gutting Civil Rights Protections for Trans People by Narrowly Defining Sex and Gender

In October 2018, it was revealed that the the Trump-Pence administration is considering a restrictive definition of the term “sex” in federal civil rights laws that would would eliminate protections for transgender people and open them up to more discrimination. This proposed change to civil rights protections could essentially erase all federal recognition of transgender and nonbinary people, including the estimated 1.4 million Americans who don’t identify as the gender on their birth certificate.

The New York Times
Civil Rights Consequences of Not Recognizing Trans Identity

Losing civil rights protections open trans people up to greater discrimination in all areas of their lives, but particularly in areas where they already face historic barriers and systemic discrimination. For example, trans people are more likely to be evicted from a home, bullied in school, fired from a job, and sexually harassed on the street.

American Association for Justice
Health Care Consequences of Not Recognizing Trans Identity

Doctors and leading medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Physicians for Reproductive Health, point to extreme harm that erasing transgender and nonbinary people’s federal recognition could cause — including deep psychological distress and inability to access a host of health services, such as applying for Medicaid. That worsens existing barriers transgender people face in health care: 70% of trans and gender-nonconforming people say they’ve faced serious discrimination in health care, and 29% of trans people report having been refused to be seen by a health care provider because of their actual or perceived gender identity.

ABC News
Protecting Clinicians Who Turn Away LGBTQ+ Patients

An entirely new government office was established to protect health care workers who refuse to treat patients because of the services they seek. The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division sits within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR was run by Roger Severino — who is against transgender rights and same-sex marriage.

Color Lines
Censoring Information on LGBTQ+ Health

The Trump administration removed a government webpage on lesbian and bisexual women’s health; withheld more than 10,000 public comments related to transgender people’s health care; and stripped all LGBTQ+ mentions in a HHS four-year strategic plan.

NBC News
Encouraging Federal Contractors to Discriminate Against Employees

A rule that the Department of Labor proposed on Aug. 14, 2019, would let religious companies with federal contracts discriminate against their employees, as long as the employers’ religious views were the reason for the discrimination. The Trump-Pence administration would allow all sorts of discrimination under this new rule, including discrimination against employees based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, LGBTQ+ status, and other characteristics (like reproductive health decisions). So, government contractors could fire workers who take birth control, or who are pregnant and unmarried if in conflict with  the contractor’s religious beliefs. The administration's rule would curtail longstanding rules that say government contractors are not allowed to discriminate.


Related Issues


The Health Agenda

Federal Judges

Title IX

Refusal Policies

Sex Education

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