ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said she is concerned about LGBT residents in Maryland after the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“I am not worried about an erosion of legal rights, I am worried about an erosion of tolerance and civility.”
McIntosh admitted it is difficult to know what will happen when Trump becomes president, but said Maryland lawmakers “will be vigilant” to protect the LGBT community in the state.
While law experts and delegates agree it will take years for any anti-LGBT legislation to pass, some residents are still nervous about the future for LGBT rights in Maryland.
Currently, Maryland is one of the most LGBT-friendly states in America.
It is one of three states to pass marriage equality by popular vote, and has statewide non-discrimination laws for gender identity, sexual orientation, housing and employment.
“We have really great protections in Maryland,” said Patrick Paschall, the executive director of Free State Justice, a legal advocacy organization for LGBT citizens in Maryland.
“There has been a lot of progress in the last eight years, both statewide and nationally.”
Paschall listed non-discrimination laws; making it easier to change gender on birth certificates; and assisted reproduction as examples of progress in Maryland.
Paschall said federal progress was clear in recent years with the passing of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
While it is difficult to say what will happen under President-elect Trump, Kenneth Lasson, a civil liberties law professor at the University of Baltimore, said he does not believe much will change regarding LGBT laws, on the federal or state level.
“In the short run there is virtually nothing (Trump) could do to overturn Supreme Court decisions, although his appointments to the Court could eventually have a real impact.” Lasson said to the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.
“He might have more immediate success in challenging federal regulations — assuming Congress would be supportive.”
Trump potentially could appoint new justices to the Supreme Court who could overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage throughout the nation.
Martha Ertman, a law professor at the University of Maryland who teaches contracts and wrote a book about exchanges in reproductive technology, adoption, cohabitation, and marriage, said it takes a long time to change laws, even if Trump tried to use the Supreme Court to overturn gay marriage.
“Law moves extremely slowly,” she said. “It took decades … to get changes.”
“It can’t be undone easily.”
McIntosh, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, agreed, saying she didn’t think Supreme Court reversals were a pressing concern.
“It would take a long time,” she said, to both approve the justices and for the Supreme Court to hear the case.
While some are worried about what Trump could negatively change for the LGBT community, others, including Gregory Angelo, think Trump is the most pro-LGBT Republican candidate in history.
“We have a Republican candidate who has reached out to the LGBTQA community in an unprecedented way,” said Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives and allies in the U.S.
Joe Cluster, the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, agreed with Angelo.
“People have a misconception on (Trump’s) views,” he said. “They think this guy is something he is not.”
“Not once on the campaign trail did he mention changing gay rights.”
At the Republican National Convention, Trump pledged to help the LGBT community, the first time a Republican presidential nominee spoke positively about the LGBT community in an acceptance speech.
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he said.
After the crowd applauded, Trump continued, saying, “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”
Yet many people, including Paschall, believe Trump is not pro-LGBT, but in fact anti-LGBT.
“Donald Trump hasn’t taken a lot of public stances on LGBT issues,” Paschall said. “He will take from his closest people.”
Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during his time as governor of Indiana, which allowed businesses to refuse service to anyone, including the LGBT community, for religious reasons. Paschall called the bill “the most restrictive anti-LGBT law in the country.”
Trump’s chief strategist is Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, which Bannon called “the platform for the alt-right,” a white nationalist movement.
Breitbart is known for its provocative, often racist, sexist or homophobic headlines. One such headline was “Gay Rights Have Made Us Dumber, It’s Time To Get Back In The Closet.”
Supporters of Trump push back against talks of his cabinet being non-inclusive, pointing to Peter Thiel.
Thiel, who spoke about his experience as a gay man while on stage at this year’s Republican National Convention, is a part of Trump’s transition team.
Trump supporters also say his actions on the campaign trail in Colorado show he is an ally for the LGBT community.
While walking across the stage at a rally in Greeley, Colo., on Oct. 30, Trump held up a rainbow flag with the words “LGBTs for Trump” on it. It was seen as a landmark moment for LGBT rights in the Republican Party.
Paschall said that one event should not quell people’s fears.
“Holding up a rainbow flag does not make positive LGBT policies,” he said. “You can’t wash away policy sins of his closest advisers by holding up a rainbow flag.”
McIntosh said Trump’s campaign brought out bullying, but she was able she to take hope from what he didn’t say.
“Because of the Trump candidacy, where he made fun of women, minorities and people with disabilities, we have seen an increase in bullying,” she said. “But he never mocked gay and lesbian people. I was encouraged by that.”