What a Trump presidency means for LGBTQ rights — and why many activists are alarmed

AP

The election of former reality television star Donald Trump to the highest office in the land has many Americans concerned, and for lots of different reasons. Trump campaigned on a platform of deportation, anti-Muslim bigotry and an economic plan that hundreds of economists agreed could be "dangerous" and "destructive." But what about LGBTQ rights? 

Trump's supporters and far right media outlets have claimed that he supports, even champions, rights for LGBTQ communities — but his Cabinet picks and choice of vice president tell a much different story.

Our new vice president-elect has a troubling history of attacks on LGBTQ rights in his home state of Indiana, where he served as Governor. In 2015, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in the state, paving the way for discrimination against LGBTQ people by permitting business owners to refuse service to anyone on the basis of religious belief. 

A participant in a Pride Parade marches with an altered version of Trump's "Make America Great Again" hat.  Bryan R. Smith/Getty Images

While he later signed a revision that, according to the Huffington Post, "explicitly barred a business from denying services to someone on the basis of categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity," recent history has proven that so-called religious freedom laws are simply opportunities to legalize discrimination rather than "protect" religious freedoms that weren't even under threat to begin with. 

And Pence has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage, saying, in a 2006 speech in support of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, that "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family."

While Pence was running for Congress in 2000, he advocated allocating resources away from HIV/AIDS programs and toward those "which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." Programs like those described by Pence, also known as "conversion therapy," have been banned in several states and are widely believed to be both ineffective and actively harmful.

Indiana residents rally to support LGBTQ rights in 2008.  Tom Strattman/AP

Pence's anti-LGBTQ policies would be frightening enough on their own — but they're all the more alarming considering the fact that the vice president of his administration will take the lead and perhaps become the "most powerful vice president in history," as an advisor to former presidential candidate John Kasich who was reportedly approached by the Trump camp told the New York Times

And Trump's picks for Cabinet positions seem just as foreboding for LGBTQ communities. Trump's choice of Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as a special counselor to his administration is especially frightening — not only does Bannon have a history of anti-Semitism, under his guidance Breitbart churned out stories that whipped-up hate against any LGBTQ people who weren't conservative white gay cis men, with headlines like "Lesbian Bridezillas Bully Bridal Shop Owner Over Religious Beliefs" and "Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard."

Even tapping Peter Thiel, an out gay tech billionaire, for a leadership position would do little for those concerned about LGBTQ rights among the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. Queer women of color, trans kids and undocumented LGBTQ people are unlikely to find an ally in a conservative white gay man who referred to his role in paying for a revenge-driven lawsuit against Gawker Media as "philanthropic."

As for marriage equality, widely touted as the gay-rights movement's biggest win? It too could be up for debate. Despite Trump's vague assurance during an appearance on 60 Minutes Sunday night that he is "fine" with same-sex marriage, his tendency to lie and his promise to nominate ultra-right judges to fill Supreme Court vacancies make it hard to believe that marriage equality is truly safe.

In a post on its website, LGBTQ rights group Human Rights Campaign outlined some of Trump's previous statements opposing marriage equality. During an appearance on FOX News just this year, when asked if he would "try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage" Trump responded "I would strongly consider that, yes."