By Scott Wiener
This piece was originally published in the Bay Area Reporter on November 17, 2016
Last Wednesday morning, we in the LGBT community woke up in a different world — a dystopian world that demands we push back, fight, and stop the radical right-wing takeover of our government that is happening as you read this piece.
After decades of progress, including eight years of the most pro-LGBT president in American history, we are faced with the nauseating reality that Donald Trump will be president of the United States. That Mike Pence, of extreme homophobic fame, will be vice president. That the Republicans will control both Congress and the presidency for just the third time since 1930. That one of the top alt-right leaders — racist, anti-Semite, xenophobic, misogynist Stephen Bannon — will be Trump’s top counselor. That Trump will immediately nominate a Supreme Court justice and may have the opportunity to name one or two more, cementing a right-wing court majority for a generation.
These changes are certain to have profound impacts on LGBT people, particularly the most marginalized in our community. We will no longer have a president who goes out of his way to support our community and talk about us. We will no longer have an attorney general who speaks about transgender people from the heart. We will no longer have a vice president who goes on national TV and speaks truth about LGBT people.
We are losing an administration that goes out of its way for our community, and gaining an administration and a Congress that go out of their way to undermine our community. Think a federal “religious freedom” law that eliminates state and local LGBT civil rights laws everywhere; federal education guidelines making it harder for trans and gender-nonconforming youth to be treated fairly and with dignity in school; gutting of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and other health programs that ensure people living with HIV, women with breast cancer, gay men seeking PrEP, and transgender people have full access to health care.
I could go on, but you get the point. We didn’t ask for this fight, but the fight came to us. And, fight back we will. We cannot afford another 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s refusal to respond to the HIV pandemic ripped apart our community as so many of our brothers died. We cannot afford another George W. Bush demanding a federal constitutional amendment to enshrine us as second-class citizens.
California has a huge role to play in fighting back — defending our own community and standing in solidarity with immigrants, people of color, women, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and all the other swaths of America that Trump, Pence, and their ilk disparage and attack.
California is the sixth largest economy in the world. We represent 15 percent of the country’s population. We have a long and deep track record supporting LGBT people, other marginalized groups, and working people. We are the world capital of innovation. We must stand tall and provide a powerful, progressive counterbalance to the destructive forces that are descending on Washington and too many state capitols across the country.
As your recently elected state senator, I promise you that I will be part of that fight, for our own community and for other communities. We have much work to do:
● If Trump and the Republicans in Congress follow through on their threat to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, California should adopt its own version and should also explore adopting a single-payer system. We cannot backslide on our commitment to health care access.
● California must continue to be on the cutting edge of supporting transgender people, including full health care access, protecting access to restrooms and other accommodations, ensuring full equity for transgender students, and supporting families that want to do right by their trans kids.
● California must continue to stick up for LGBT families, who will be under attack in various parts of the country, LGBT seniors, and our large population of at-risk and homeless LGBT youth.
● California must ensure access to health care for people living with HIV, including backfilling Ryan White cuts and ensuring funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. These programs are a health care safety net for many low-income people with HIV.
● California must lead on harm reduction efforts, since this administration and Congress will be hostile to these efforts. You’ll recall it was Pence — when he was governor — who allowed HIV infections to explode in one area of Indiana because of his refusal to allow needle exchange for IV drug users. California must protect needle exchange, expand access to PrEP, and ensure women have access to birth control and the HPV vaccine.
● California must continue to be a state of refuge for people fleeing persecution, whether internationally or from the many parts of this country that are now being empowered to discriminate and harm LGBT people and others.
California has power. We have fight. And, fight back we will. Let’s do it, and let’s win.
Scott Wiener is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and was elected last week to the state Senate. He takes office in early December.