Instigator / Pro

Trump has done more harm than good for LGBTQ+ Americans.


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After 4 votes and with 28 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

Trump has on occasion attempted to appease both the anti-LGBTQ sentiments of the religious right and the more progressive and inclusive vision of mainstream America. However, on balance, President Trump has undermined efforts to afford equal rights to LGBTQ Americans. He has harmed far more than he has helped. Whether these actions have been justified (morally or legally) is a separate question that will not be pursued here. In this debate, we are essentially concerned with a morally neutral evaluation of Trump’s track record on LGBTQ rights. If someone disagrees with my judgement on that score, take up the debate!

Round 1
President Trump's track-record on LGBTQ rights is not one of progress and good-will. Instead, the President has done more harm than good for the lives of LGBTQ Americans over his time in office. I agree with Michelangelo Signorile who writes in the Washington Post that “[t]he Trump administration’s continued assaults on LGBTQ rights are nothing short of breathtaking,” [1]

But first, two preliminary issues. First, I define "actions of the President" under the resolution to include, not only direct decisions made by Trump, but also any actions taken by his administration. I have two reasons for this stipulation. (i) Trump appointed the members of his cabinet and other heads of various federal departments, thereby making him implicitly responsible for their actions. (ii) The President is the one to whom these men and women are accountable, so his refraining from correcting an action by a segment of his administration is implicit approval of that action. The Trump administration and the federal government more generally includes the “[f]ifteen executive departments — each led by an appointed member of the President’s Cabinet — [that] carry out the day-to-day administration of the federal government” and “other executive agencies such as the CIA and Environmental Protection Agency, the heads of which are not part of the Cabinet, but who are under the full authority of the President” [2]. Second, as said in the overview of this debate, I am not concerned to defend the morality or legality of the President’s stance towards LGBTQ individuals. Instead, I will argue only that his decisions during his time in office have harmed queer Americans.

I will organize the evidence for that contention under three headings: (i) health care, (ii) education, and (iii) employment. Under each heading, my argument will be that first, the federal government action implicates LGBTQ people, and second, that implication is harmful. That two-step structure makes clear that I realize gesturing towards a potentially harmful policy is not enough to demonstrate actual harm, so I will connect theoretical considerations to empirical evidence of harm as tightly as possible.

I. Health care

The primary way that the Trump administration has undermined LGBTQ Americans in health care is by removing protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The main affront to queer Americans came when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tried to institute a rule known as “Protecting Statutory Conscience Claims in Healthcare.” This rule would have allowed hospitals and other healthcare facilities to turn patients away and deny care to them based on the former’s religious conscience. Services affected by this ruling would have included “abortion, ectopic pregnancy care, contraception, gender dysphoria treatment, vaccine administration, physician aid in dying and other services” and the people who would be empowered to discriminate included “ancillary personnel such as clerks, technicians, medical assistants, ambulance drivers and other nonprofessional staffers, as well as physicians, nurses and other medical professionals” [3]. Fortunately, a federal judge struck down the ruling. However, even though the rule never went into effect, it increases the plausibility of the contention that the Trump administration has harmed LGBTQ people. This first consideration is a contextual consideration, to be sure, but a powerful one.

Another example comes again from the HHS: they have proposed a rule modification that allows agencies to accept grants from the federal government, without requiring them to refrain from discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. [4] The organizations include “those related to HIV and STD prevention, substance abuse treatment, youth homelessness, elder care and other areas of public health and education.” [5] It is difficult to see who one could argue that this rule would not harm LGBTQ individuals. Regardless of the stated or actual motivation behind this policy, it has obvious negative implications for the health and welfare of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans.

A final example stems from the HHS declining proposals that would have required hospitals to enforce policies prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation as a requirement to take part in Medicare and Medicaid. On its face, this action implies that hospitals can discriminate on this basis and still take part in these government-funded programs. On that note, it is important realize that discrimination against LGBTQ people in healthcare is not a mere theoretical possibility. The evidence bears out that being gay, bi, lesbian, or transgender increases one’s risk of facing discrimination when seeking medical attention or advice. NBC News reports that “[a] 2017 report by the liberal Center for American Progress found 8 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and 29 percent of trans people reported that a provider had refused to see them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the previous year.” [6] It is even more troubling that the Trump administration would add fuel to that fire.

II. Education

The current administration’s track-record of LGBTQ rights and public education is no better. According to a report published by the Center for American Progress, “complaints students filed alleging sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination were nine times less likely to result in corrective action under the Trump administration than under the Obama administration.” These students are left defenseless and alone in getting the legal tools to fight back against discrimination and mistreatment. Moreover, the Department of Education has confirmed that it will not follow-up with complaints filed by transgender individuals who have been denied access to the gendered bathroom with which they identify. Again, one needs to keep in mind that the question here is not, “Are these actions justified?”, but simply, “What is their impact on LGBTQ Americans?” They have obviously had a negative and harmful impact, regardless of their justification.

Harm related to education stems from the Department of Agriculture requiring 4-H – a character-building organization that touches the lives of over seven million young people worldwide – to remove guidelines from its website about how to welcome young LGBTQ people into the program. Unless Con has some compelling evidence to the contrary, the face-value interpretation of the Department’s decision on this score is that LGBTQ people are not worth having even guidelines about their inclusion. Psychological harm, I think, is the obvious implication of a move like that.

III. Employment

In a sense, I have saved the most damning evidence for last. When it comes to employment guidelines and regulations, the Trump Administration has failed the LGBTQ constituents of America. The most obvious example is Trump’s move to ban transgender people from the military. While transgender people who were members of the military before the ban went into place can apply for a waiver, no new transgender individuals may enlist. The harm to transgender individuals here is two-fold. First, they suffer the harm of decreased employment opportunities. The ban bars them from serving their country, no matter the strength of their conviction or the fire of their patriotism. Second, they suffer the psychological harm that comes from belonging to a banned minority.

Or again, former attorney general Jeff Sessions issued a memo that changed the Justice Department’s stance towards discrimination in the workplace. Heretofore, discrimination based on considerations of gender identity or sexual orientation was illegal. With the decision of Sessions, the Department reversed itself and such discrimination was now perfectly legal. Following this move, various branches of the Department have filed legal briefs before federal courts defending discrimination in the workplace. Some of these briefs currently stand before the Supreme Court. For instance, when “a Michigan funeral home director…was fired after she announced she was transitioning to a woman,” [7] the DoJ filed briefs in defense of the funeral home’s right to fire her. That women suffered the harm of lost employment and income, and examples can only go up if the Supreme Court allows those guidelines to go through.

Moreover, the Department of Labor issued a statement that “exempt[ed] contractors from compliance with federal nondiscrimination rules that cover employment if they conflict with a contractor’s religious beliefs” [8]. Noami Goldberg has stated that “[e]xamples of the type of discrimination this action condones include firing unmarried pregnant workers, workers who may not be coreligionists or who can’t sign a statement of faith, unmarried cohabiting workers and L.G.B.T. workers.” [9]

IV. Conclusion

Whether it comes to employment, education, or health care, there can be little doubt that LGBTQ Americans have not done well under the Presidency of Donald Trump. I await Con’s argument to the contrary.



Round 2
I extend all arguments. Hopefully Con will post next round and we’ll get some interaction with what I’ve had to say.
Round 3
Arguments extended.
Round 4
One more time! Arguments extended.