If there’s one shtick Republicans consistently count on, it’s crowing about protecting individuals from “big government.” But with the unpredictable and unprincipled Donald Trump administration now in power, the party’s dedication to dismantling governmental authority is being put to the test with an unlikely conflict — and now the GOP is going to have to decide which they dislike more, the government or queer people.
When the government protects LGBTs, Republicans can be counted on to oppose any federal initiative that requires due process and equal rights, even when that initiative is the U.S. Constitution itself. But when queer people are able to secure protection for themselves at a local level, suddenly Republicans are eager to swoop in with new regulations that make life miserable for same-sex couples.
For example, Trump’s administration recently announced it was rescinding protections for trans students in schools. Previously, the Obama administration provided significant protections for LGBT students, particularly trans people. Schools were advised that students should be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and that correct names and pronouns should be used. Failure to comply could result in a loss of federal funding.
But Trump’s new puppets have decided that rolling back those protections should be among their first order of business. Working together, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked those protections for LGBT students. (A rumor claimed that DeVos pushed back against the action, but that doesn’t seem to be true: at CPAC, she said she opposed the protections because they were “overreach.”)
As always, conservatives claimed that the Obama-era protections posed a threat to privacy and safety. Their claim is that cisgender students are imperiled when trans students are respected — and, of course, they want to focus on bathrooms. But these protections aren’t really about bathrooms, any more than segregation was about protecting drinking fountains. Eliminating these protections will have the effect of preventing trans people from obtaining an education. Whether they’re blocked from using the bathroom — a medically dangerous situation — or simply abused with deadnames and misgendering, Trump’s policies mean that trans students will be unsafe in schools.
That’s on top of the already perilous situation that students face: a Williams Institute study showed that 70% of trans people report being harassed for using the bathroom. It’s worth pointing out that there are no documented cases of a trans person harassing anyone in a bathroom in this country.
The Republican party’s justification for this change: that federal protections are “overreach,” and that this is a matter best handled at a local level.
That may sound reasonable, except that when localities try to protect LGBTs, the Republicans are waiting to swoop in and block them.
Last week in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court ruled it was illegal for towns to enact nondiscrimination protections for LGBTs. Even if a town wants to pass nondiscrimination laws, they’ve been blocked by a ban passed by the GOP at the state level.
Conservatives pay a lot of lip service to the importance of local control, but when local control means protecting LGBT peoples’ homes, jobs, education and more, suddenly government interference in local matters doesn’t look so bad. The hypocrisy is staggering.