Polling has shown that in both 2016 and again in 2020 approximately 15% of LGBTQ voters admitted they cast ballots for Trump and his virulently anti-LGBTQ running mate. NBC reported that most of them “emphasized that they were less concerned with the LGBTQ-related aspects of the Trump platform than they were with general issues like national security, economy, and the right to bear arms. While it’s clear that the majority of the LGBTQ community leans liberal— and remains fearful that the Trump-Pence administration will instigate increased discrimination and a step backward for equality— gay Trump voters don’t appear to share the concerns of the larger community. In fact, they are thrilled to support a man who many Republicans say is the first truly LGBTQ-friendly GOP president.” In 2020, a post-election GLAAD survey found that 19% of LGBTQ respondents identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning.
19% seems high. I bet that don’t know that “House Republicans have embedded at least 45 anti-LGBTQ+ provisions into must-pass funding bills— many of which would weaken discrimination protections for same-sex couples or restrict gender-affirming care for adults and minors. The volume and severity of these provisions is an unprecedented attempt by federal lawmakers to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people, activists say… Lawmakers’ willingness to tie these provisions to the federal budget raises the stakes for a community that has already seen its rights rolled back across many states this year.”
One Republican who would have been a sure bet to vote for every anti-LGBTQ amendment proposed is conservative Republican Ken Calvert. But suddenly his district was redrawn to include large LGBTQ communities in the Palm Springs area. And suddenly he’s toned down his anti-gay messaging dramatically… albeit not entirely. The Democrat who opposed Calvert last cycle and is running again is Will Rollins. Last cycle Rollins came closest to defeating Calvert than any Democrat ever has:
This time, many observers expect Rollins to defeat Calvert and replace him in Congress. A couple of weeks ago, Rollins wrote that Calvert had joined other MAGA extremists on the House Appropriations committee and voted to cut numerous projects that would provide housing and services to the LGBTQ+ community. The funding in question would have supported community centers, transitional housing, and senior housing services. This bigoted attack on the LGBTQ+ community across the country is an absolutely despicable, discriminatory effort to strip funding for projects that would support some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities… America is not and can never be a place where the question of whether you eat depends on who you love. It’s unfathomable that the representative for Palm Springs— home to one of our nation’s most vibrant LGBTQ communities, including my partner Paolo and me, sold out LGBTQ seniors for cheap political points and thinks he can win the next election by telling tens of thousands of his own constituents that we don’t deserve equal access to food banks and job counseling. Government is about priorities. Most of us in this district— Republicans and Democrats alike— want pragmatic, smart leaders focused on solving real problems. Targeting vulnerable LGTBQ folks might help rile up a far-right fundraising base, but it sure as hell doesn’t make the 91 freeway any less congested in Corona. Ken’s bigoted, misguided vote is not only a stark reminder of why we need to expand LGBTQ representation in Congress, but also why we need a new generation of leaders focused on the right priorities— instead of culture wars— here in Riverside County.”
The 19th Newsletter continued to note that “Seven of the 12 appropriations bills include provisions to restrict federal funding for gender-affirming care— which would cut gender transition care for people who receive Medicare, Medicaid or a subsidized plan under the Affordable Care Act. Trans people in the military, the National Guard and their dependents would also be impacted, as would federal government employees, trans veterans, trans people incarcerated in federal prisons and trans people in immigration detention. Another seven bills would ban the use of federal funds to fly Pride flags over government buildings. All but one bill include measures that nullify protections for same-sex couples in programs across the federal government. Ten of the bills include efforts to restrict funding to programs that seek to advance diversity, equity and inclusion for people of color or LGBTQ+ people. A provision in the appropriations bill that directs spending for the Commerce and Justice departments would prevent federal funds from being used to investigate or advocate against people or organizations that define sex in a way that excludes transgender and intersex people. Another add-in would prevent any funds from being used to sue any state or local government ‘over any law relating to transgender issues.’”
Mondaire Jones is in the middle of reclaiming his old Hudson Valley House seat from Republican Mike Lawler who beat Wall Street darling Sean Patrick Maloney last year. This morning, Jones told me that “The designation of LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens has been a decades-long project of the Republican Party. Whether it is the elevation of hyper-conservative jurists to the Supreme Court or the proposal of anti-LGBTQ amendments in Congress, the Republican Party and my opponent Mike Lawler have shown that their only agenda for our country is division and hate. They are not helping to create a single job, and they are not making life for the average person less expensive. These culture warriors are simply not serious people, and they must be defeated.”
The push for anti-LGBTQ+ “riders”— provisions that dictate policy not directly related to the federal budget— also coincides with growing anti-trans rhetoric in Congress and is part of a bigger trend of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment becoming more mainstream and more violent in politics, experts say.
A new report from the Human Rights Campaign found that all of the annual spending bills brought in the House contain anti-LGBTQ+ provisions. Meanwhile, measures to restrict access to abortions have been written into nearly all of the spending bills passed by the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee, setting up another fight with Senate Democrats to pass the federal budget.
…That many of the anti-LGBTQ+ provisions in this year’s spending bills were included in the base text when they were first introduced, and not added in later, marks a departure from what activists have seen in the past, said Jennifer Pike Bailey, deputy director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign.
“So they were really hitting the ground running from the get-go to infuse these bills with this hateful effort,” she said. “It really was a signal to those of us who are working on these issues where their priorities lie, that they don’t want to make a serious effort at funding the government. They are using this process to push an agenda.”
Usually, the LGBTQ+ rights organization tracks one or two bills with such provisions— but this year is different.
“To have this many anti-LGBTQ+ riders on every single appropriations bill is just an entirely new level,” she said. While most of the measures would impact day-to-day life for LGBTQ+ people, others— like banning Pride flags from flying over government buildings— seem to be simply a message that LGBTQ+ people are not welcome, she said.
…As increasingly violent disinformation about LGBTQ+ people is being spread and normalized through legislation and speech, it increases the likelihood of violence against LGBTQ+ people, said Susan Corke, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. The number of hate groups that target LGBTQ+ people has also continued to rise, as has anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment among hard right political groups who have various targets.
Rhetoric against transgender and queer people is not new in the United States, but it is increasingly being weaponized and politicized by figures on the hard right and by some elected officials, she said. The kind of rhetoric being spread includes the belief that LGBTQ+ identities can be spread through social contagion or that any affirmation of LGBTQ+ people is an attempt to groom children.
“It’s a very multi-layered campaign, but it’s the escalation of rhetoric. It’s the normalization of it within the Republican Party. It is the legislative push to keep LGBTQ persons out of the public sphere. It is the way the far right media is echoing and amplifying these tropes. It is the disruption in the public spaces to instill fear, protests outside libraries and taking over school boards. So it’s really an unfortunately, very successful, deliberate campaign of hate,” she said.
At a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing last month on gender-affirming care, one Republican House member said gender-affirming care for minors would be better described as a “sexual lobotomy.” Republicans asked witnesses questions that encouraged them to affirm the false belief that transgender women are men and that it is not possible to be a different gender than the one assigned at birth.
Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, warned in his opening remarks at the July hearing that “the reach of sexual identity politics isn’t limited to young children alone.”
We see this extended to young adults especially at the university level now,” he said. “The modern left applauds men competing in women’s college athletics. We see universities captured by academics advancing this ideology on students across our country. Whether it’s by scalpel or by social coercion from teachers, professors, administrators and left-wing media, it’s an aggressive attempt to transition the young people of our country.”
The Human Rights Campaign tries to comprehensively track congressional hearings where anti-trans rhetoric may come up, but the organization had to stop doing that earlier this year since the discussions were simply coming up at so many hearings, Bailey said. Republicans in the House and in the Senate have tried to inject anti-trans questions into any sort of hearing they can.
“And I think that is what has changed, is the breadth of the ways that they are trying to attack the community,” she said.
Republicans have been “looking for any opportunity to add these bans,” Bailey said. A key example: inserting a gender-affirming care ban into legislation that needs to be reauthorized every five years to fund training for pediatric residents.
As activists lobby allies on the Hill and ask other organizations to push back against federal anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, they are waiting until after the congressional recess to see how riders embedded within House federal spending bills evolve.
“We’re just not going to know how likely these things are to stay in final packages until they’re back from recess,” Bailey said. And there is still a long process to go through after that. Her concern is what happens when the parties ultimately meet to create an omnibus federal budget bill or a continuing resolution that funds the government.
Advocacy and nonprofit groups that support different minority groups need to come together to fight, Newman said.
“We have a chance of winning this war that’s been thrust upon us. It’s been building for years but now it’s climactic where there’s hundreds of laws, state and federal, and bills coming up every week, attacking us, and we need support,” she said.
Today, Maebe A Girl, a strong frontrunner in the race to replace Adam Schiff in the seat he’s giving up to run for the Senate, told me that “The GOP added riders to the National Defense Authorization act prohibiting medical care for transgender servicemembers and their families, banned LGBTQIA+ books or those that don't uphold the gender binary in military schools, restricted abortion access, and undermined protections for race in the military. When you see those issues bundled together, you know this isn't just an issue of "trans girls in women's sports" or drag queen story hour. This is a full-frontal assault on our rights as free and fair Americans, especially on lower-income Americans for whom the military is increasingly one of the only options to escape poverty and a tightening economy. While I would vote against any bill that increases the budget to our bloated military-industrial sector to begin with, if bills like these are set to pass I would fight to make sure they are fair and equal for ALL Americans.”
Please consider contributing to Maebe’s and Mondaire’s campaigns here.
UPDATE From Riverside, California
Mark Takano is the chair of the House LGBTQ Caucus. “By littering must-pass legislation with outrageous amendments targeting the LGBTQI+ community and the right to reproductive choice,” he told me this evening, “MAGA House Republicans are proving their intolerance and bigotry to the American people. Instead of coming to the table ready do their job as legislators and appropriate funds for the government programs that millions rely on, extremists are threatening the future of these programs and a potential government shutdown.”