“The American dream is big enough for everyone – for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities—for everyone.”
That was one of the memorable soundbites by Hillary Clinton last November when she conceded the election to Donald Trump – a day, we now know, that would also herald the worst setback to date in the social advancement of the LGBT community and the battle for equality in America.
As Pride celebrations and equality marches and rallies take place across the nation, Clinton’s words are an ideal worth remembering.
Our constitutional democracy, said Secretary Clinton, “enshrines the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values… and we must defend them.”
President Trump and his core evangelical supporters don’t believe in that version of the American Dream. They see an America where the majority of people reflect their optics, conservative beliefs and narrow understanding of the world. They do believe the Bible’s instruction to “Love Thy Neighbor” – but only if that neighbor isn’t LGBT or Muslim or African-American or otherwise different from them.
At a time when the need to bring the American people together and encourage tolerance has never been greater, the president sadly declined to acknowledge Pride month 2017 and its historic significance to an estimated 12-15 million LGBT Americans.
Instead, on June 8 he addressed the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference, a gathering of a thousand or so anti-LGBT evangelical activists, where he won loud approval for declaring, “we’re under siege.”
Speaking in the nation’s capital, even as streams of paper rainbows and Pride flags were being strung in preparation for the parade two days later, Trump told the evangelicals, “We will end the discrimination against people of faith. Our government will once again celebrate and protect religious freedom.”
End the discrimination of faith? That could only mean Trump’s support for the First Amendment Defense Act, a nasty piece of legislation proposed late last year by Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas who, not incidentally, happens to high-up in the ranks of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
FADA would prohibit the government from taking punitive action against any business or person that discriminates against LGBT people.
That means, according to the bill, LGBT individuals (and presumably, individuals suspected of being LGBT, because, you know that pink triangle on our foreheads makes our sexual and gender orientations immediately identifiable!) can be refused service in any establishment if the waiter or nurse or dentist or emergency technician believes, according to the bill, “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
This frightening bill was first introduced in 2015. It failed then, but things have changed. Now with Trump’s support, a homophobic attorney general, the most anti-LGBT administration in history and a Republican majority in place, the bill has a chance of succeeding.
The evangelicals want it. And Trump’s political future depends on keeping the evangelicals happy.
Last Sunday’s marches and rallies across the nation need to be the first of many if the voices of the LGBT community and other marginalized members of our nation are to be heard.
Our battle cry must be that of equality for all Americans. Hillary was right: America – and the American Dream – are big enough for everyone.
Peter Jackson is the vice president and general manager of Hotspots Media Group. He can be reached at PJackson@Hotspots.LGBT