Trump’s record of action against transgender people
Since the day President Trump took office, his administration has waged a nonstop onslaught against the rights of LGBTQ people. In order to keep the administration accountable for its policies and help transgender people keep track of actions taken against us, here are the major changes implemented or attempted by the Trump administration:
Anti-Transgender and Anti-LGBTQ Actions
August 16, 2019: The Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that federal law “does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status.”
August 14, 2019: The Department of Labor announced a proposed rule that would radically expand the ability of federal contractors to exempt themselves from equal employment opportunity requirements, allowing for-profit and non-profit employers to impose “religious criteria” on employees that could include barring LGBTQ employees.
July 15, 2019: The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced an interim final rule that would block the vast majority of asylum-seekers from entering the United States, with deadly consequences for those fleeing anti-LGBTQ violence.
July 8, 2019: The Department of State established a “Commission on Unalienable Rights” aimed at narrowing our country’s human rights advocacy to fit with the “natural law” and “natural rights” views of social conservatives, stating it would seek to “be vigilant that human rights discourse not be corrupted or hijacked or used for dubious or malignant purposes.” (Shortly thereafter, the State Department official tasked with coordinating the new commission was fired for “abusive” management including homophobic remarks.)
May 24, 2019: The Department of Health and Human Services published a proposed rule that would remove all recognition that federal law prohibits transgender patients from discrimination in health care. Courts across the nation have ruled otherwise.
May 22, 2019: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a plan to gut regulations prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in HUD-funded homeless shelters.
May 14, 2019: President Trump announced his opposition to the Equality Act (H.R. 5), the federal legislation that would confirm and strengthen civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans and others.
May 2, 2019: The Department of Health and Human Services published a final rule encouraging hospital officials, staff, and insurance companies to deny care to patients, including transgender patients, based on religious or moral beliefs. This vague and broad rule was immediately challenged in court.
April 19, 2019: The Department of Health and Human Service announced a proposed rule to abandon data collection on sexual orientation of foster youth and foster and adoptive parents and guardians.
April 12, 2019: The Department of Defense put President Trump’s ban on transgender service members into effect, putting service members at risk of discharge if they come out or are found out to be transgender.
March 13, 2019: The Department of Defense laid out its plans for implementing its ban on transgender troops, giving an official implementation date of April 12.
January 23, 2019: The Department of Health & Human Services' Office of Civil Rights granted an exemption to adoption and foster care agencies in South Carolina, allowing religiously-affiliated services to discriminate against current and aspiring LGBTQ caregivers.
November 23, 2018: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) erased critical guidance that helped federal agency managers understand how to support transgender federal workers and respect their rights, replacing clear and specific guidance reflecting applicable law and regulations with vaguely worded guidance hostile to transgender workers. While this guidance change did not change the rights of transgender federal workers under applicable law, regulations, Executive Orders, and case law, it is likely to cause confusion and promote discrimination within the nation's largest employer.
November 19, 2018: The Department of State appealed a court order directing it to issue a passport with a gender-neutral designation to a non-binary, intersex applicant.
August 10, 2018: The Department of Labor released a new directive for Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) staff encouraging them to grant broad religious exemptions to federal contractors with religious-based objections to complying with nondiscrimination laws. It also deleted material from an OFCCP FAQ on LGBT nondiscrimination protections that previously clarified the limited scope of allowable religious exemptions.
June 11, 2018: Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that the federal government would no longer recognized gang violence or domestic violence as grounds for asylum, adopting a legal interpretation that could lead to rejecting most LGBT asylum-seekers.
May 11, 2018: The Bureau of Prisons in the Department of Justice adopted an illegal policy of almost entirely housing transgender people in federal prison facilities that match their sex assigned at birth, rolling back existing protections.
April 11, 2018: The Department of Justice proposed to strip data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity of teens from the National Crime Victimization Survey.
March 23, 2018: The Trump Administration announced an implementation plan for its discriminatory ban on transgender military service members.
February 18, 2018: The Department of Education announced it will summarily dismiss complaints from transgender students involving exclusion from school facilities and other claims based solely on gender identity discrimination.
January 26, 2018: The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that encourages medical providers to use religious grounds to deny treatment to transgender people, people who need reproductive care, and others.
January 18, 2018: The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights opened a "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division" that will promote discrimination by health care providers who can cite religious or moral reasons for denying care.
December 14, 2017: Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were instructed not to use the words “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based” in official documents.
October 6, 2017: The Justice Department released a sweeping "license to discriminate" allowing federal agencies, government contractors, government grantees, and even private businesses to engage in illegal discrimination, as long as they can cite religious reasons for doing so.
October 5, 2017: The Justice Department released a memo instructing Department of Justice attorneys to take the legal position that federal law does not protect transgender workers from discrimination.
September 7, 2017: The Justice Department filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing for a constitutional right for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and, implicitly, gender identity.
August 25, 2017: President Trump released a memo directing Defense Department to move forward with developing a plan to discharge transgender military service members and to maintain a ban on recruitment.
July 26, 2017: President Trump announced, via Twitter, that "the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
July 26, 2017: The Justice Department filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, arguing that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or, implicitly, gender identity.
June 14, 2017: The Department of Education withdrew its finding that an Ohio school district discriminated against a transgender girl. The Department gave no explanation for withdrawing the finding, which a federal judge upheld.
May 2, 2017: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to roll back regulations interpreting the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provisions to protect transgender people.
April 14, 2017: The Justice Department abandoned its historic lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s anti-transgender law. It did so after North Carolina replaced HB2 with a different anti-transgender law known as “HB 2.0.”
April 4, 2017: The Departments of Justice and Labor cancelled quarterly conference calls with LGBT organizations; on these calls, which had happened for years, government attorneys shared information on employment laws and cases.
March 31, 2017: The Justice Department announced it would review (and likely seek to scale back) numerous civil rights settlement agreements with police departments. These settlements were put in places where police departments were determined to be engaging in discriminatory and abusive policing, including racial and other profiling. Many of these agreements include critical protections for LGBT people.
March 2017: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) removed links to four key resource documents from its website, which informed emergency shelters on best practices for serving transgender people facing homelessness and complying with HUD regulations.
March 28, 2017: The Census Bureau retracted a proposal to collect demographic information on LGBT people in the 2020 Census.
March 24, 2017: The Justice Department cancelled a long-planned National Institute of Corrections broadcast on “Transgender Persons in Custody: The Legal Landscape.”
March 13, 2017: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that its national survey of older adults, and the services they need, would no longer collect information on LGBT participants. HHS initially falsely claimed in its Federal Register announcement that it was making “no changes” to the survey.
March 13, 2017: The State Department announced the official U.S. delegation to the UN’s 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women conference would include two outspoken anti-LGBT organizations, including a representative of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM): an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
March 10, 2017: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it would withdraw two important agency-proposed policies designed to protect LGBT people experiencing homelessness. One proposed policy would have required HUD-funded emergency shelters to put up a poster or "notice" to residents of their right to be free from anti-LGBT discrimination under HUD regulations.
The other announced a survey to evaluate the impact of the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative, implemented by HUD and other agencies over the last three years. This multi-year project should be evaluated, and with this withdrawal, we may never learn what worked best in the project to help homeless LGBTQ youth.
March 8, 2017: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removed demographic questions about LGBT people that Centers for Independent Living must fill out each year in their Annual Program Performance Report. This report helps HHS evaluate programs that serve people with disabilities.
March 2, 2017: The Department of Justice abandoned its request for a preliminary injunction against North Carolina’s anti-transgender House Bill 2, which prevented North Carolina from enforcing HB 2. This was an early sign that the Administration was giving up defending trans people (later, on April 14, it withdrew the lawsuit completely).
March 1, 2017: The Department of Justice took the highly unusual step of declining to appeal a nationwide preliminary court order temporarily halting enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination protections for transgender people. The injunction prevents HHS from taking any action to enforce transgender people's rights from health care discrimination.
February 22, 2017, 2017: The Departments of Justice and Education withdrew landmark 2016 guidance explaining how schools must protect transgender students under the federal Title IX law.
Other Harmful Trump Administration Actions
The Trump administration has taken many other actions to roll back civil rights and health care protections and target vulnerable communities. While not specifically directed at transgender people or gender identity protections, we list them here because it is critically important that we view our quest for transgender equality as intertwined with other social justice movements. These include attacks on reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act, refugees and other immigrants and the enforcement of civil rights laws. Many of these actions will also disproportionately harm transgender people. These are just a few examples:
Kicking Americans off Medicaid and Food Stamps: The Trump Administration has taken numerous actions to kick Americans in need off of Medicaid and SNAP coverage. On April 10, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to push for work requirements for low-income people in America who receive federal assistance, including Medicaid and SNAP.
Targeting Reproductive Rights: On October 6, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation allowing employers and insurers to deny coverage for birth control, as long as they can cite religious reasons for doing so. In April, President Trump and Congress overturned a regulation that protected Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of care for transgender people, and other family planning clinics from funding discrimination by states.
Harming Sexual Assault Survivors. On September 7, 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she would withdraw historic guidance on schools' and universities' responsibilities to address sexual assault and sexual harassment. On September 27, 2017, the Department replaced this guidance with flawed and dangerous “interim guidance” tipping the scales against student survivors seeking protection on campus. This is especially dangerous for transgender students, because 47% of transgender adults in the US Transgender Survey were sexual assault survivors.
Cruel and Relentless Attacks on Immigrant Communities. On September 5, 2017, President Trump acted to strip hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families of security, stability, and safety by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that separated hundreds of immigrant children from their families. On April 10, a federal official announced that the Department of Justice was halting the Legal Orientation Program, which offers legal assistance to immigrants. On June 11, Attorney General Sessions ruled that domestic or gang violence are not grounds for asylum in the United States. These are just a few of many anti-immigrant actions that are especially dangerous for many LGBT immigrants who could face life-threatening violence if deported.
Putting Health Care Out of Reach: On April 13, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services rolled back numerous Affordable Care Act rules to reduce protections for people seeking and using health insurance. These actions make it harder to enroll in health care plans, allow plans to sharply raise deductibles, and weaken requirements for insurance plans to have in-network providers that serve low-income communities. These changes disproportionately affect people of color and any one with lower incomes, including transgender people. These changes make getting health care coverage harder for people who lose coverage or who depend on community clinics.
Expanding Immigration Detention: The Department of Homeland Security is vastly expanding the number of immigrants held in immigration detention centers nationwide, while also eliminating protections for health and safety in detention centers. Reducing these protections for immigrants who are being detained is wrong, and it's especially dangerous for vulnerable transgender immigrants, many of whom are asylum-seekers who risk extreme abuse.
Banning Muslims and Refugees: On January 27, 2017 and again on March 6, President Trump signed executive orders seeking to ban entry by refugees and travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries and drastically reduce the number of refugees allowed to seek safety in the United States. We cannot stand for a world where people in danger are denied entry because of who they are, including where they come from or whether they are Muslim or any other religion. LGBT refugees are among the many who are fleeing life-threatening persecution because of who they are or what they believe. While the bans were allowed to take effect by the Supreme Court, court cases challenging them continue.