Is it not obvious by now who is controlling President Donald Trump and his anti-LGBT crusade? Vice President Mike Pence, who made a national name for himself as governor of Indiana by pushing “religious-liberty” laws to allow citizens to ignore LGBT rights for religious reasons. That’s not to mention anti-trans legislation he supported, and his backing of conversion therapy– all of which Pence sees as his contribution to the moral fiber of America, and his legacy.
By sheer elimination, one can see how the program of ridding the government of any sign of LGBT rights is one of Pence’s aims. Pence and former presidential adviser Steve Bannon were influential in the naming of far-right Republicans whom Trump chose to lead his administration. Trump, who was and is an outsider, knew almost none of those he nominated, while Pence had been a Washington insider from his days as a Congressman and had a network of connections to anti-LGBT organizations on which he could call.
Pence has championed the restriction of LGBT and women’s rights. No one else in the West Wing feels as strongly, and no one else in the West Wing on that level marches in such lock step and with such blind obedience to Trump as Pence does. It’s almost like a dog sniffing the behind of another dog it likes. Okay, let’s put it out there: There is no other person so primed to kiss Trump’s ass at any given point than Pence. Hence, Trump tosses him his favorite treat – the rollback of LGBT and women’s rights, as Pence begs on all fours.
There is no better way to illustrate this than the ban of transgender people in the military, which saw a victory this week as it was struck down by a court.
Few understand how this started. Senate and House members eager to overturn an Obama-era rule allowing trans people in the military tried to find a way to do so by using military budgeting measures; this caused disagreement in the White House, with squabbling between those who wanted the issue left alone and the Pence team. Enter a disgruntled Trump in a weakened moment of attacks and who saw a need to change the dialogue, and presto: He’s able to toss a treat in the form of a tweet to ban trans people from the military. Good boy, Mikey, now crawl into your cage and go to sleep with your treat.
While everyone in the West Wing tries to influence Trump to produce change in their direction, Pence is the only one who has a long list in the win column. In fact, he has won more policy issues in the White House than Trump himself has won with Congress. Here’s just a partial list of wins for Pence:
• Ban on trans people in the military (being addressed in the courts)
• Attorney general issues directive to all departments on religion freedom.
• Attorney general issues guidance that LGBT discrimination will no longer be considered discrimination based on sex.
• Trump uses “religious exemptions” to restrict health-care access, a direct attack on women and transgender Americans.
• Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issues a statement that nondiscrimination protections in federal-education laws should be addressed at the state and local levels.
• The Trump administration reverses federal guidelines that allowed students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
• CIA Director Mike Pompeo cancels a planned speech at the CIA about diversity and LGBT rights to be given by Judy and Dennis Shepard.
• UN Secretary Nikki Haley votes against a measure that condemns capital punishment for LGBT people.
• The Trump administration proposed a budget that slashes funding for programs critical to the LGBT community, including Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, and the Centers for Disease Control’s HIV and AIDS programs.
That is quite a record of victories in only ten months. There is no other figure in the West Wing who has consistently had his or her agenda signed off on and moved. Pence is wagging Trump’s tail.
“Resist” is a holy word, but in doing so, you’re not just resisting Trump. Resisting only Trump is very dangerous. Many have shouted for a Trump impeachment. That would make Pence president. A better plan is to block Trump at every level, or as best as possible for the next three years, then hopefully beat him in an election. The only other alternative is President Pence.
Remember, this is not simply an LGBT survival guide, it’s also about women’s health, immigration and a whole host of important issues. Pence is worse than Trump on all accounts.
Mark Segal is publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. His new memoir And Then I Danced is out now. You can follow him oat Facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.