House Rep. Al Green has joined a growing chorus of voices calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment following continued allegations about the president’s ties to Russia. The most recent developments in the never-ending soap opera are reports that Trump referred to James Comey, the FBI chief recently fired from his post, as a “nut job.” After Comey was relieved from his duties, Trump told Russian envoys that his ouster would relieve a source of “great pressure” on the White House. Comey had been investigating the Kremlin’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election, among other things.
Green, who claimed last week that it was the “duty” of Congress to hold Trump accountable, is in the majority of Americans in calling for action against the POTUS. A survey from Public Policy Polling found that 48 percent of respondents believe that Trump should be impeached. Just 41 percent believe we should leave him alone.
Should Trump be impeached and subsequently removed from office, it would be a major victory for the resistance groups who have been on the frontlines opposing his administration, especially the women who marched on Washington and the undocumented workers who protested his immigration policies by picketing airports across the United States. One group, though, may not be celebrating alongside them: the LGBTQ community. While Trump has been no “friend” to queer and trans people, these groups are likely to be further placed in the crosshairs by Trump’s successors—particularly if his replacement is the man who currently occupies the vice presidency.
A Pence administration is a profound threat to the basic civil rights of every LGBTQ American. Mike Pence, who has spent his entire career opposing equality, would annihilate the gains made by queer and trans advocates in recent years, and the staunch religious conservative is likely to do more than that. Without the checks of Trump’s socially moderate confidants in place, Pence could pass some of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ policies in history. These would effectively make queer and trans folks into second-class citizens.
Since the January inauguration, Pence has been one of the leading voices in the White House calling for a “religious liberty” order to target LGBTQ people. Trump has long been rumored to have an executive order in his back pocket that would allow for sweeping bigotry in the name of faith. The Nation leaked an EO in February that would allow “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The many arenas in which it would permit anti-LGBTQ bias include “social services, education, or healthcare,” “earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others,” and “receiving government grants or contracts.”
The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have reportedly fought the EO’s introduction in their roles as advisors to Trump. Their opposition has helped table the order numerous times. Most recently, sources inside the administration claimed the White House was prepared to introduce it on the National Day of Prayer, but that didn’t happen. The POTUS instead signed a declaration to weaken the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law which prohibits religious leaders from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit.
It must be noted that Trump has done absolutely nothing to support the LGBTQ community during his time in the White House. He has consistently rolled back queer and trans rights since taking office in January. The POTUS struck down an Obama order calling for oversight of federal nondiscrimination policies, which help prevent LGBTQ workers from being fired for discriminatory reasons; he nixed federal best practices calling for trans students to be treated with the same dignity and respect as their cisgender classmates, which were introduced last year. His administration also removed questions about queer and trans elders on federal surveys, igniting fears that the Oval Office is “erasing” LGBTQ people.
But without the few voices helping prevent Trump from taking further action against the LGBTQ community, the damage could be far, far worse.
There’s almost no question that Pence would introduce the EO that Trump has tabled. As the governor of Indiana, he passed a law unnervingly similar to what the pending order stipulates. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Pence’s hand in 2015, allowed businesses to deny services to LGBTQ customers based on their “sincerely held religious belief” that marriage is between one man and one woman. Following a $60 million boycott, that law was amended to excise the discriminatory portions of the RFRA bill, but there’s little evidence that the former governor learned from the debacle. Pence has repeatedly denied that the original law discriminated against LGBTQ people at all, telling ABC host George Stephanopoulos, “Tolerance is a two-way street.”
Given Pence’s background, there’s no limit to the grievous harm to which he could subject the LGBTQ community. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow once referred to the current vice president as the “most vociferously and consistently anti-gay statewide elected official in the country,” and she isn’t wrong. Pence has received a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the lowest possible score. In plain English, that means he has never supported a single piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation in his nearly two decades as a politician.
Pence has a notably ugly history on civil rights. He opposes LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime laws and legislation that would prevent workers from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Pence believes that employment protections for LGBTQ people would “wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace.” As a member of the House of Representatives, he co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment back in 2003, which sought to add language to the U.S. Constitution limiting marriage between one man and one woman. Pence has pushed for such an amendment numerous times as a House representative, arguing that allowing same-sex couples to marry will bring about “societal collapse.”
It doesn’t get better from there. Many speculate that during his 2000 run for Congress, Pence advocated that funding for HIV/AIDS treatment be diverted to conversion therapy programs. That characterization of his policies has been contested, but there’s a great deal of evidence to support that reading. Pence is on record as stating that being gay is a choice. And during his tenure as president of the Indiana Policy Review, the right-wing organization’s journal published an article in 1993 saying that queer and trans people should be barred from military service because they “carry extremely high rates of disease.” In opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2010, Pence would say on the floor of the House, “We ought not to use the American military as a backdrop for social experimentation.”
The message is clear: If Trump goes, Pence must go with him. The current administration contains some of the most virulently anti-LGBTQ figures in public life, and Pence would likely give them carte blanche to discriminate against queer and trans people. Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, once tried to block an LGBTQ student group from meeting at a public university. Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, belongs to a fringe medical association that doesn’t believe HIV causes AIDS. Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has called transgender people the “height of absurdity.”
Can you imagine what these people would do under President Pence? The LGBTQ community has had a difficult enough time surviving Trump, so let’s make sure we never have to find out the answer to that question.