A graphic featuring Trump and imagery pertaining to LGBTQ rights.
A graphic featuring Trump and imagery pertaining to LGBTQ rights.
In the second installment of the ACLU’s election 2024 memo series, our experts detail the threats a potential second Trump administration poses to the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people. 
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June 13, 2024
In the second installment of the ACLU’s election 2024 memo series, our experts detail the threats a potential second Trump administration poses to the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people. 

Donald Trump’s administration initiated a sustained, years-long effort to erase protections for LGBTQ people. This included an effort to “define ‘transgender’ out of existence,” erode protections for transgender students and workers, and weaken access to gender-affirming health care that most transgender people already struggled to access.

While President Joe Biden’s administration reversed much of the Trump-era abuses, just last month on the campaign trail, Trump vowed to dismantle a new Biden administration policy that will offer protections for transgender students under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

The ACLU is prepared to defend the LGBTQ community, including transgender individuals, from a second Trump administration’s anticipated attempts to weaponize federal law against them. Learn more in our breakdown:

Trump on LGBTQ Rights

The Facts: Trump has promised that, if reelected, his administration will rescind federal policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and will assert that federal civil rights laws don’t cover anti-LGBTQ discrimination. In addition to rolling back existing protections, a second Trump administration will proactively mandate discrimination by the federal government wherever it can. Lastly, and perhaps most ominously, if Trump returns to the White House, we expect his administration to use federal law – including laws meant to safeguard civil rights – as a cudgel to override critical state-level protections for transgender students and to force state and local governments, as well as private organizations, to allow or even perpetuate discrimination

Why It Matters: A second Trump administration would strip LGBTQ people of protections against discrimination in many contexts, including employment, housing, education, health care, and a range of federal government programs. The Trump administration’s proposed policies would ban transgender people from serving openly in the armed forces and block gender-affirming medical care for transgender people enrolled in federal healthcare programs, such as Medicare. The effects of these cruel – and unconstitutional – discrimination efforts would be devastating, as thousands of transgender people would immediately lose access to needed medical care and the right to live freely without fear. In essence, a potential second Trump administration would seek to erase transgender people from public life entirely by using federal laws – including obscenity laws – to criminalize gender nonconformity.

How We Got Here: The Trump administration was openly hostile toward the LGBTQ community and vehemently opposed the Equality Act, which would have ensured that existing civil rights protections cover sexual orientation and gender identity in the way that they already do for race, disability, veteran status, and more. The Trump administration also blocked basic job protections for LGBTQ people, insisting that employers should be free to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration also eliminated nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people established under the Affordable Care Act.

Critically, the Trump administration had an enormous impact on the courts, including the Supreme Court. Getting courts to understand the experience of transgender people and the impact of discriminatory policies on their lives was difficult even before Trump reshaped the judiciary. It is that much harder today because of the viewpoints of the judges and justices Trump appointed to the federal courts and Supreme Court.

Our Roadmap: Should a second Trump administration take office, the ACLU will use the courts to affirm that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under federal law, to invalidate policies mandating discrimination across the federal government, and to shut down Trump’s expected efforts to weaponize the Constitution and federal laws to require discrimination against LGBTQ people by state and local governments and private entities.

Litigation is not our only pathway to push back against anti-LGBTQ policies. Congress can, and must, use the power of the purse and its oversight and investigative authorities to constrain a second Trump administration’s extreme anti-LGBTQ agenda. The ACLU will aggressively lobby members of Congress who support the transgender community to use the appropriations process, in particular, to hinder Trump’s ability to mandate anti-trans discrimination and weaponize federal law against LGBTQ rights.

The ACLU also has a comprehensive state-level plan of attack. We will advocate for states and school boards to protect LGBTQ students by enacting guidance regarding updating student names and pronouns, and by creating inclusive rules on gender-based activities, best practices for school records, and ways to support transgender students living under a federal government that discriminates against them. We’ll also urge states to support policies that prevent their governments from being complicit in a second Trump administration’s efforts to attack the legitimacy of transgender people in our world. Lastly, we will mobilize public support on behalf of vulnerable children and youth to deter further draconian policies and help reshape the political narrative around transgender justice.

What Our Experts Say: “We have seen the disastrous consequences of a hateful campaign targeting LGBTQ people and their families with discriminatory laws, forcing many from their home states and denying many more the freedom to get the health care they need to live their lives openly, and even to decide what name to go by. We are determined to use every tool at our disposal to oppose any attempt to deny LGBTQ people the freedom to live and love freely and openly.” – Mike Zamore, national director for policy & government affairs

“For four years, President Trump and his administration left no stone unturned in their effort to attack the right of LGBTQ people to live and work as who we are. We fully expect a second Trump administration to go further, weaponizing federal law to override state level protections and mandate discrimination by schools and health care providers nationwide. Regardless of the election’s outcome, we stand ready to fight to uphold the fundamental freedom we are guaranteed by the Constitution to live our lives as we choose.” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.

What You Can Do Today: As wave after wave of extreme measures to criminalize and strip trans people of rights and safety continue, the time to act is now. Tell your members of Congress to protect trans people from discrimination today.

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