AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a five-part series of blog posts, published every Sunday during the month of June, commemorating Pride Month in 2019.
With Pride Month, which is a month-long celebration throughout the month of June celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community, beginning yesterday, it’s an important time to note that the Trump Administration’s policies towards transgender Americans have been absolutely horrific. In particular, two actions by the Trump Administration against transgender Americans have drawn significant criticism, and rightly so. The first of these is the ban on transgender Americans serving in our nation’s Armed Forces, which was reinstated by Donald Trump. The second of these is a more recent decision by the Trump Administration to effectively legalize discrimination against transgender Americans seeking health care.
Rev. Jennifer Butler, who chaired the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships during Barack Obama’s presidency, wrote this op-ed for CNN’s website in opposition to the Trump Administration legalizing health care discrimination against transgender Americans. In her op-ed, Rev. Butler also called out religious conservatives for weaponizing religion in an attempt to justify discrimination:
Yet far too often, politicians instead choose to use faith as a weapon to judge the same marginalized people that Jesus commanded us to love. This weaponization of faith as a political tool has grown more acute in the last few years, with politicians like President Donald Trump using so-called moral or religious objections to push their own discriminatory partisan agenda in defiance of the very values they claim to embrace.
Among the latest examples of this trend: Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a rule that would roll back anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act for transgender people or people who have previously undergone an abortion, and also finalized a rule to allow medical providers to refuse treatment and services for religious and moral reasons, which critics say could justify denial of service to trans people.
Coming on the heels of the transgender military ban, the proposed rule removes protections against gender-identity discrimination from the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which bans sex discrimination in federally funded health care (after a final rule implemented in 2016 explicitly included gender identity). The new rule would strip civil rights protections in healthcare from an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults and 150,000 trans youth ages 13 to 17 in the US.
As someone who is an atheist in a country where a majority of the country’s population self-identifies as Christian, I am very supportive of the concepts of freedom to exercise religion and separation of church and state. However, the religious right’s vision of “religious freedom” is not freedom at all. It’s weaponizing religion in order to discriminate against others. When a freedom or right is used as a sword to discriminate against people instead of as a shield to protect the rights and freedoms of people, it ceases to be a freedom or right.
The policies of the Trump Administration towards transgender people, including barring transgender Americans from being able to serve their country in uniform and the legalization of health care discrimination against transgender Americans, are discriminatory, barbaric, and absolutely unacceptable. On the first Sunday of this year’s Pride Month, remember that the right’s use of “religious freedom” to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ Americans is most certainly not freedom, and that discrimination of LGBTQIA+ Americans is absolutely wrong on many levels.