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Where LGBTQ Rights Stand Two Years Into the Trump Administration

Millions will gather in New York City later this June to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the historic clash between police and queer patrons at the Stonewall Inn that launched the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Since that night, the LGBTQ community and their allies have made strides toward achieving equitable freedom—but the fight is far from over.

Law enforcement arrived at the Stonewall Inn during the early hours of June 28, 1969, to address alleged liquor law violations, but the officers forced out the bar’s patrons with such bias-infused brutality that days of protests began. Fifty years later, the New York police commissioner issued a long-demanded apology for the department’s conduct on that night.

“The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong—plain and simple,” Commissioner James P. O’Neill said during an event earlier this month, the New York Times reports.

Each year, the LGBTQ community celebrates the anniversary of the Stonewall riots with pride marches and commemorative events throughout the month of June, drawing attention to the fight for civil rights. President Bill Clinton was the first in the White House to issue a proclamation officially recognizing June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in June 2000.

“I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate our diversity, and to remember throughout the year the gay and lesbian Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life,” wrote Clinton.

Clinton’s record isn’t perfect: He also implemented the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that some argued was a repackaged ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military (Barack Obama repealed the policy in 2011). Clinton did, however, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government.

The administration of George W. Bush began the following year, and another proclamation was not issued until 2009, when Obama recognized the more inclusive “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.” He did so every year for the rest of his presidency.

Since taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump has not issued an official proclamation recognizing Pride Month (Congress attempted to pass its own measures declaring the celebratory month the past two years, but neither effort was successful).

Trump has repeatedly voiced support for the community online and in public, but his administration’s policies appear to present an agenda with opposite goals.

LGBTQ rights have not only been ignored under the current White House, but actively withdrawn, Sarah Massey of the National LGBTQ Task Force, the oldest LGBTQ rights organizations in the country, told Fortune.

“I think not only have we seen a bigot in Trump, we also see someone who seeks to discriminate and hurt the LGBTQ community,” Massey said. “It’s one thing to miss a holiday. It’s another thing to propagate rules that would kick our trans siblings out of the military, would kick people out of shelters or housing, would kick people out of affordable health care. Holiday proclamation is a symbol, but the reality is much, much worse.”

The Trump administration has taken both small and substantial steps toward withering the rights of LGBTQ individuals since day one, a timeline of such moves published by GLAAD, an LGBTQ-focused media monitoring organization, shows. The timeline includes several instances of endorsing anti-LGBTQ beliefs and erasing LGBTQ visibility in important government documents.

Just a month after his inauguration, Trump withdrew protections for transgender individuals by stating Title IX no longer applies to their community. The 1972 law forbids discrimination based on gender, and had been used under the Obama administration to ensure transgender students were permitted to use the school restroom of their choice.

A few months later, Trump signed an executive order focused on “religious liberty,” setting the groundwork to allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community based on religious beliefs. The declaration was applauded by the Family Research Council, an educational organization that seeks to inform the general public “about family issues that affect the nation from a biblical worldview.”

The Bureau of Prisons stated in May 2018 that inmates must be housed according to their biological sex, rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender individuals, and Trump’s Justice Department stated in October 2018 that Title VII, which protects against employment discrimination, does not extend to LGBTQ individuals.

More recently, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, and the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule change that could threaten healthcare protections for the transgender community.

The changes are more than just political. According to Massey, the president has failed to be “a moral leader,” allowing a culture of conservatism and white nationalism to be “echoed across the whole country.”

“You have the political, you have the policy, but then you have the culture of hate, and that is impacting our communities,” said Massey.

A 2016 data analysis by the New York Times—published just days after the deadly Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando—shows LGBTQ individuals are more likely to be the target of a hate crime than any other minority group. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ “Crisis of Hate” report, 2017 saw more anti-LGBTQ homicides than any of the prior 20 years. Within the last few years, violence against transgender women of color in particular has grown into a crisis.

Massey says Trump “uses his pulpit to discriminate” against marginalized populations, all of which include LGBTQ individuals.

“The thing that’s wonderful about being LGBTQ is we are everyone,” said Massey. “The people who are seeking asylum, who are being held in cages: they are LGBTQ. The people who are not getting access to housing and education, they are also LGBTQ.”

“I want everyone to understand that whether you know it or not, you know an LGBTQ person,” Massey continued. “They’re just not out because of the culture and the society that we exist in right now. Every single person has a responsibility to shift that culture.”

Congress has made moves toward fighting discriminatory policies by introducing the Equality Act. If enacted, the Equality Act would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The House was able to pass the act thanks to the transformative midterm elections, which saw a record number of women and minority representatives elected. The Republican-controlled Senate, however, has not voted on the matter, and Trump has voiced disapproval of the legislation.

While this process is slow-moving, Massey said she remains hopeful for the future.

“We are reflecting on 50 years since the Stonewall riots and what we can say is over the course of these last 50 years, we have made progress,” said Massey. “I look at the younger generation and I see hope.”

Kids today are “throwing out outdated concepts around gender,” said Massey. Many are being raised by two mothers, two fathers, or a transgender parent without realizing this family structure was not always the norm. Being LGBTQ is still illegal in many places around the world; the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage just four years ago.

“I see the Trump administration as a reaction to all of our progress,” said Massey. “He’s taking us one step back, but we’re already way ahead, and we will continue to be, regardless of who is in the White House. If it’s this administration or the next, they have one thing to work on—which is politics—and we have the people. We have the hearts, the minds, and the culture. The wheels of history are turning towards progress and justice.”

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