Three times in one week, the Trump administration issued rules and proposals to take rights and protections away from transgender Americans. This is a targeted assault on an already vulnerable group of people that should concern all Americans.

Last Tuesday, the administration finalized a rule that allows health care workers to refuse to treat transgender patients based on religious objections. On Wednesday, it announced draft rules that would allow homeless shelters that receive federal funds to turn away transgender individuals.

And, in the most sweeping anti-transgender move yet, the administration last Friday, released a proposal that would gut patient protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity that were included in the Affordable Care Act. The same proposal would also eliminate protections from discrimination for women who have had abortions.

These come on top of a Pentagon ban on transgender Americans serving in the military and a reversal of policy ensuring that transgender students were protected from discrimination in public schools and universities.

The Trump administration’s assault on transgender Americans is prime evidence of why the Equality Act is needed now more than ever. Because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the LGBTQ community — which often experiencesdiscrimination and intolerance — still has little to no recourse in some states when confronting barriers to housing, education, employment and other critical areas of everyday life.

The Equality Act would extend protections based on sexual orientation to employment, housing, public accommodations and public services.

The measure passed the House earlier this month. It faces dim prospects in the Senate.

Sen. Susan Collins is the act’s lone Republican sponsor in the Senate, with only a handful of Republicans signing on in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream,” Collins said when the Equality Act was introduced in March. “It is time we ensure that all people are judged on their talents and abilities, and have full access to the services they need and the opportunities they seek.”

Without other Republicans on board, the legislation isn’t likely to lead to meaningful change. That’s a shame, because expanding these protections is a necessary continuation of efforts to make America a place where all people are treated equally.

As Katelyn Burns pointed out Wednesday in The Washington Post, all of the political and civil rights gains made by the transgender community over the past decade have been erased in the past two years.

For me, as a transgender person, this administration’s constant targeting of us is terrifying,” wrote Burns, the first openly transgender Capitol Hill reporter. “It seems that there’s little they won’t do to making transitioning and living a dignified life as a transgender person impossible. Trump and his administration are clearly prioritizing the desires of religious conservativeswho would like to see my existence rubbed out of society, and they’ve come this far so quickly with barely a blip of resistance. [The] attack on our health care is the most devastating yet.”

Maine, fortunately, has a strong Human Right Act that broadly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In their first bill this year, Maine lawmakers passed legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills, that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people by health insurance companies.

It is encouraging that Maine, and other states, have taken these steps. But, without federal policies demanding that all Americans be treated equally, the rights of some groups, which may be disfavored by a president, can be diminished. That should worry all of us.

President Trump, who appeared to break with Republican orthodoxy in 2016 by pledging to be a “real friend” of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, is facing fresh attacks from Democrats and advocates who say his administration has instead become their worst enemy.

Trump and his aides have issued a wave of new regulations, executive orders, legal briefs and personnel appointments aimed at reversing large parts of the Obama administration’s civil rights agenda, winning plaudits from religious conservatives who form the bedrock of Trump’s political support.

But the moves also put Trump at odds with growing popular support for expanding legal protections to more LGBT Americans, and the issue has become a rallying point among Democrats in the 2020 presidential race.

“We have a president who is a homophobe,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote last week on Facebook, linking to a report about the Trump administration’s plan to make it easier for adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples.

The next day, Sanders returned to Facebook to criticize the administration for proposing regulations rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender people in the health-care system and in housing.

“We will not allow Trump to divide us — our job must be to stand with the transgender community,” he wrote.

 Sanders was part of a growing chorus of Democratic presidential candidates who are taking on Trump over his record on LGBT issues, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The contrast is especially stark given the large field of Democratic candidates, which includes the first openly gay presidential contender, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The Trump administration has sided against LGBT activists on a host of issues over the past two years, including banning transgender troops from serving in the military and arguing in court that civil rights laws to do not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group for LGBT issues, has created a 16-page document outlining administration actions that it says are hostile to LGBT Americans.

Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage and allowing transgender troops to serve in the military. Trump’s record on LGBT issues could harm his bid for reelection because many of his policies are out of step with a growing number of moderate suburban voters, said Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report.

“In 2016, candidate Trump looked more moderate on this issue,” Walter said. “His administration, however, has been anything but moderate — especially on transgender issues.”

But Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Democrats are trying to make a name for themselves in a crowded primary by attacking Trump.

“Like his peers, Bernie Sanders is on a desperate quest to increase his standing in the Democrat primary and is therefore maligning President Trump with baseless smears yet again,” she said in a statement. “President Trump believes in the human dignity of all while simultaneously respecting religious freedom. He has consistently supported both equality and liberty as Democrats continue their ruthless smear campaign and failed, recycled attacks from 2016.

The president’s policies, many of which are cast within the context of protecting of religious freedom, have been hailed by conservatives who say Trump is standing up for traditional values.

 After the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new proposed rule to reverse an Obama-era regulation extending health-care protections to transgender Americans last week, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised the move.

“Sex is not subjective, it is an objective biological reality,” he said in a statement. “The rule proposed today helps protect health care providers from being forced to participate in and perform services that substantially violate their consciences.”

So far, Trump himself has largely been silent on much of his LGBT record. He has not responded to Democrats’ attacks and has not personally championed his administration’s policy push as he has on other issues, such as immigration. 

When asked by a reporter last week if doctors should be forced to perform gender reassignment surgeries — a possibility dismissed by LGBT advocates as unlikely — Trump’s answer was brief and noncommittal.

“We're going to see,” he said. “We'll see.”

Trump is also expected to let June pass for a third time this year without acknowledging LGBT Americans as part of Pride Month, according to David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.

When he campaigned for president in 2016, Trump made overtures to the LGBT community that were at the time unprecedented in Republican presidential politics.

He told NBC’s “Today” show that Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom in Trump Tower, breaking with other Republican leaders who backed so-called “bathroom bills” requiring transgender Americans to use the bathroom associated with their biological gender at birth. In nationally televised remarks during the Republican National Convention, Trump referenced a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando and became the first GOP nominee to mention “our LGBTQ community” during his acceptance speech.

 “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he said. 

 But since taking office, Trump has won praise from Christian conservatives by supporting policies that LGBT activists oppose.

 “For us Christians, this president has been the most Christian-friendly president in my lifetime,” Franklin Graham, an evangelical leader, said Tuesday on Perkins’s radio show, “Washington Watch.”

Graham joined with more than 250 other Christian leaders last week to declare June 2 as a special day of prayer for Trump. 

Buttigieg, who is Christian, has repeatedly criticized Trump and Vice President Pence for their approach to LGBT issues. At a May 17 event in Iowa, he accused the Trump administration of waging a “war on trans Americans.”

“Every policy turn we’ve seen out of this administration has been hostile to LGBTQ people,” Buttigieg said.

 Asked about Buttigieg’s marriage to another man, Trump said earlier this month on Fox News that he was “absolutely fine” with it.

 “I think it's great,” he said. “I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with; I have no problem with it whatsoever.”

The White House highlighted Trump’s favorable views toward same-sex marriage and blamed “radical left” Democrats for attacking the president over his support of religious freedom.

“President Donald Trump is the first U.S. President to favor same-sex marriage when he was sworn in, absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind, and supports the equal treatment of all,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

But Trump’s record on LGBT issues could overshadow his more moderate public comments on same-sex marriage as voters assess his presidency during the 2020 race, Walter said. 

 “His handling of this issue is one more reason why he is so unpopular with the kinds of suburban swing voters that at one time supported Republicans,” she said. “Combine this with his support for more abortion restrictions and the administration’s treatment and policy toward separating refugee children and families on the border, and you have a record that repels suburban women.”

LGBT activists will be spending much of the next 18 months making voters aware of that record, said Charlotte Clymer, press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. 

“A lot of Americans, after same-sex marriage was legalized, kind of entered a sense of complacency,” Clymer said. “We think the president is giving us something that will be a useful motivator to win suburban voters and swing voters.”

One of the first things Christians teach our children is to love our neighbors and not to judge. We hear about how Jesus spent time with the outcasts, people in prison, and other downtrodden people who were rejected or punished for their differences by mainstream society.

Yet far too often, politicians instead choose to use faith as a weapon to judge the same marginalized people that Jesus commanded us to love. This weaponization of faith as a political tool has grown more acute in the last few years, with politicians like President Donald Trump using so-called moral or religious objections to push their own discriminatory partisan agenda in defiance of the very values they claim to embrace.

Among the latest examples of this trend: Trump's Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a rule that would roll back anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act for transgender people or people who have previously undergone an abortion, and also finalized a rule to allow medical providers to refuse treatment and services for religious and moral reasons, which critics say could justify denial of service to trans people.

Coming on the heels of the transgender military ban, the proposed rule removes protections against gender-identity discrimination from the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which bans sex discrimination in federally funded health care (after a final rule implemented in 2016 explicitly included gender identity). The new rule would strip civil rights protections in healthcare from an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults and 150,000 trans youth ages 13 to 17 in the US.

Denying some people equal treatment to satisfy religious liberty for others in a civil society is a ploy to advance an agenda that has nothing to do with morality or Christianity. It is rather about turning back the clock for women and LGBTQ people who do not conform to an antiquated or "traditional" vision of our nation.

The existing provision under the ACA protects patients from being turned away and denied coverage if they need care that's related to their trans identity. For trans individuals living in one of the more than two dozen states that lack state-level protections, federal law offers the last layer of defense from discrimination. If the most recent proposal to repeal the section 1557 protections from the Affordable Care Act is finalized, trans patients living in those states will be left without any relief. In 2016, several lawsuits were brought against the rule when it was released, and in one instance, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction to stop gender identity and termination of pregnancy provisions; that injunction remains in effect.

The existing protections HHS is now trying to retract are intended to ensure all patients would have access to the care they need, allowing doctors to provide the best care when they felt it necessary.

Research and analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that the majority of patients who filed gender and sex discrimination complaints with Health and Human Services (HHS) between 2012 and 2016 were denied general care -- that is, care unrelated to transition-related treatments -- because of their gender identity. Trump's proposed new rules would likely intensify these refusals, eliminating much-needed protection for transgender and gender non-conforming patients, and expanding the authority for health care workers to opt out of providing care to LGBTQ people and people seeking reproductive health care.

According to a report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, transgender people are already four times more likely to live in extreme poverty; 90% of those surveyed said they had experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination in the workplace. Yet, Trump is actively working to legalize loopholes that promote discrimination that harms them.

As a pastor, I've often thought about who Jesus would befriend in today's world: it's not hard to imagine him spending time with the transgender community -- the very people society so often harshly judges and mistreats based on misunderstanding and fear. The number of trans and nonbinary people murdered has hit record highs in recent years, and without laws explicitly protecting them from the prejudice that is clearly already present, trans Americans are left without any legal defense.

This rule change is also the latest in a slew of attacks against women's health care that denies them basic freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. It reinforces shame, stigma and sexism -- not righteousness.

For women across the country, this attack is not new.

From the growing number of restrictive abortion bills being presented in states across the country to the Trump administration's attacks on Title X federal funding for family planning and preventative health care services, this administration has added new barriers to women seeking health care.

Jesus told his disciples, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." Taking away freedom and discriminating against people because they are different is the opposite of love -- as is denying people the care they so desperately need.

Faith calls every Christian to stand up against these perverse politics and embrace the fairness, inclusion and justice we learned in Sunday School.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling in favor of a Pennsylvania school district policy that allows some transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

This case is a challenge to a Pennsylvania's school district's policy that allows some transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. The plaintiffs are students who say the policy violates their privacy rights and constitutes sexual harassment in violation of Title IX, a federal law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds.
Tuesday's ruling was issued without comment.
In court papers, lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that "forcing a teenager to share a locker room or restroom with a member of the opposite sex can cause embarrassment and distress."
 
"The district's policy was a drastic change from the way locker rooms and restrooms have been regulated for the entire history of public-school systems," they said.
Lawyers for the school district say that they made the decision to allow transgender students to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity because the district "Believes that transgender students should have the right to use school bathroom and locker facilities on the same basis as non-transgender students."
They say the permission is not automatic but that when a transgender student requests to use facilities that comport with his or her gender identity, they have "several conversations" with a guidance counselor.
As a part of their briefs, they include a picture of Aidan DeStefano, who graduated last year from one of the schools and is a transgender male, to show why he doesn't belong in a bathroom that corresponds to the sex he was assigned at birth.
A lower court declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the policy.
Under the Obama administration: the departments of Education and Justice issued guidance to school districts that recommended that schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identity.
But the Trump administration withdrew that guidance.
When it did so, a pending case concerning a student from Virginia, Gavin Grimm, was dismissed.
This is the reverse case, brought not by a transgender student, but from students who object to sharing a bathroom with transgender individuals.

Gillette shared a new ad on Facebook with the caption “Whenever, wherever, however it happens”, where a father is seen tenderly teaching his transgender son how to shave.

The ad says quote, “Now don’t be scared, shaving is about being confident.”

In the spot, a Toronto based artist shares his experience as a transgender man.

The ad says, quote, “I always knew I was different, I didn’t know there was a term for the kind of man that I was. I went into my transition just wanting to be happy.”

According to CNN the spot has been celebrated by many, as a meaningful gesture of inclusiveness, casting a positive light on a transgender man experiencing family support.

 

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