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LGBT Rights Activists Fear Trump Will Undo Protections Created Under Obama

Nov 10, 2016
Originally published on November 11, 2016 11:46 am

The election of Donald Trump has sent shock waves through civil rights organizations, including among LGBT activists. They say they fear a rollback in the progress their movement made during the Obama administration. Meanwhile, opponents of gay and lesbian rights also see a shift coming with the Trump administration.

For the past several years, conservatives in the culture wars — those who have felt that their views on same-sex marriage, for example, were under attack — now say they have something to cheer about.

"I can tell you I'm pretty hopeful, and I'm hopeful based on what Donald Trump has said over the last year," says Kerri Kupec, legal communications director for the Alliance Defending Freedom. "In September 2015, he said that his first priority if elected president ... would be to preserve and protect our religious liberty."

Kupec says religious liberty will be tested in a case to be heard next week before the Washington State Supreme Court. A floral designer is accused of discriminating against a gay customer after declining to do the flower arrangements for his wedding.

What does this have to do with Trump's election? Kupec says the case could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, to which she expects President-elect Trump will appoint justices who will be sympathetic to claims of religious liberty.

That's a term LGBT activists say is just code language for discrimination against them.

"It's a very bitter time," says Rachel Tiven, CEO of the civil rights organization Lambda Legal.

Tiven says she sees the election as a repudiation of progress, and not just in same-sex marriage. Trump has promised he will rescind all of Obama's executive orders, including protections for gays and lesbians working for federal contractors.

"He has promised to appoint people to executive branch agencies, and within the White House and the Justice Department, who are hostile to LGBT people," says Tiven.

Tiven's anxiety about the future is already evident at the grassroots. There are reports of transgender crisis hotlines buzzing with calls from people fearful of the election results.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, Jay Brown, says a top search question on his group's website is "should I hurry and get married?"

"People are wondering if they're going to be able to be open in their workplace and when they're serving our country ... in their homes and in their communities," says Brown. "They're wondering how safe they'll be."

Trump himself sought to reassure LGBT voters even before the election. In his convention speech last summer, he condemned the massacre committed at an Orlando nightclub by a shooter who had sworn allegiance to ISIS.

"I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology," Trump said.

But Tiven of Lambda Legal isn't swayed.

"If Republicans in the White House or in Congress want to protect LGBT people, they should pass anti-discrimination law," said Tiven — though she does not believe a Trump administration will do that.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Donald Trump's election sent shock waves through civil rights organizations, including among LGBT activists. They fear a rollback in the progress of their movement that was made during the Obama administration. Now, that rollback is welcomed by opponents of gay and lesbian rights who also see a shift coming under a Trump administration. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: For the past several years, conservatives in the culture wars - those who have felt that their views on, let's say, same-sex marriage were under attack - now say they have something to cheer about.

KERRI KUPEC: I can tell you I'm pretty hopeful. And I'm hopeful based on what Donald Trump has said over the last year.

GONZALES: Kerri Kupec is D.C.-based legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

KUPEC: In September 2015, he said that his first priority if elected president was - would be to preserve and protect our religious liberty.

GONZALES: Kupec says religious liberty will be tested in a case to be heard next week before the Washington state Supreme Court. A floral designer is accused of discriminating against a gay customer after declining to do the flower arrangements for his wedding. What's this got to do with Trump's election? Kupec says the case could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where she expects President-elect Trump will appoint justices who will be sympathetic to claims of religious liberty. And that's a term LGBT activists say is just code language for discrimination against them.

Rachel Tiven is the CEO of the civil rights organization Lambda Legal. Just listen to her reaction to Trump's election.

RACHEL TIVEN: It's a very bitter time.

GONZALES: Tiven says she sees the election as a repudiation of progress and not just same sex-marriage. Trump says he'll rescind all of Obama's executive orders, including protections for gays and lesbians working for federal contractors.

TIVEN: He has promised to appoint people to executive branch agencies and within the White House and the Justice Department who are hostile to LGBT people.

GONZALES: Tiven anxiety about the future is already evident at the grassroots. There are reports of transgender crisis hotlines buzzing with calls from people fearful of the election results. Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, says a top search question on his group's website is, should I hurry and get married?

JAY BROWN: People are wondering if they're going to be able to be open in their workplace and when they're serving our country. You know, in their homes and in their communities, they're wondering how safe they'll be.

GONZALES: Trump himself sought to reassure LGBT voters even before the election. In his convention speech last summer, he condemned the Orlando nightclub massacre at the hands of a shooter who had sworn allegiance to ISIS.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.

GONZALES: But Lambda Legal's Rachel Tiven isn't swayed.

TIVEN: If Republicans in the White House or in Congress want to protect LGBT people, they should pass anti-discrimination law.

GONZALES: But Tiven doesn't believe a Trump administration will do that. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.