LGBT advocates say Trump presidency 'very, very bad' for equal rights gains

Dale Carpenter, SMU's Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law, talks about the possible impact a Trump administration could have on LGBT rights.

Lauren McGaughy
Austin bureau

AUSTIN — Donald Trump could single-handedly undo many of the steps taken in the last eight years to expand rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans — if he so chooses.

“I cannot sugarcoat it. This is very, very bad,” Rachel Tiven, CEO of the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, said in an email Friday. “The executive branch has been a source of terrific progress over the past eight years for LGBT people and those living with HIV. All these gains are likely to be under attack.”

In Texas, LGBT rights advocates worry that state leaders will be emboldened to, at best, ignore their calls for more rights and, at worst, legalize discrimination against them. A week after his surprising victory, the president-elect’s governance style in office and the issues he’ll focus on are largely a mystery. ... 

“We could see impact across all three branches of federal government,” said Dale Carpenter, the Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. “He appoints people to the federal bureaucracy in thousands of positions that affect literally every area of life.”

Starting with the Trump effect on the nation’s highest court, experts and advocates alike said a top concern at the moment is whether he will appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will undo last summer’s landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, Obergefell vs. Hodges.

In an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Trump said the legality of same-sex marriage is “irrelevant because it’s already settled. It’s law.” But he did not explain why, then, on the campaign trail he said he would appoint justices who could roll back marriage equality.

Both Carpenter and Sandy Levinson, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas, said it’s unlikely that would happen.

“It would be doubtful that the court would reverse that decision,” Carpenter said. “Doubtful but not impossible.”

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