Donald Trump failed to mention LGBTQ people during the first State of the Union address of his presidency on Tuesday night.
Queer and transgender people were noticeably absent during the nearly 90-minute speech, in which the Commander-in-Chief traditionally outlines his policy agenda to the public. Trump pledged to defeat ISIS, keep Guantanamo Bay open, and build a wall along the Southern border to Mexico, which he has previously vowed to make the Mexican government pay for.
But Trump declined to address his LGBTQ platform just days after the federal government announced it would be reshuffling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow for the creation of a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. As INTO previously reported, that move would give healthcare workers sweeping allowances to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the name of “sincerely held religious belief.”
Advocates say the president’s failure to address queer and trans equalityeven while rolling back LGBTQ rightsis a defining feature of his tenure in the White House.
Trump’s White House has repeatedly been accused of “erasing” the LGBTQ community from public life: from rescinding Obama-era guidance allowing transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity to removing questions on LGBTQ Seniors from government data collection.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s decision not to ask questions on sexual orientation or gender identity was largely viewed by advocacy groups as part of this trend, but the department has alleged these inquiries were never under serious consideration.
The POTUS also failed to acknowledge LGBTQ Pride month, even while issuing a proclamation honoring “National Homeownership Month” in June.
This is a major reversal from the previous administration, which frequently recognized the LGBTQ community in State of the Union addresses. In 2015, President Obama became the first Commander-in-Chief to say the words “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” in the public speech.
“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained,” Obama said three years ago. “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
“We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer,” he continued.