Since Donald Trump was announced as President-elect, many of my friends and family have been panicking. Over the past eight years under President Obama, the LGBT community has made amazing strides — abolishing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," lifting the ban on HIV-positive individuals entering the US, condemning conversion therapy, appointing a trans person into the Obama administration and, of course, legalizing same-sex marriage. Although we're far from where we'd like to be in terms of equality, things are looking pretty good.
Many of us awoke on Wednesday, November 9 wondering if all our work was for nothing. What lies ahead of us once Trump changes the address on his calling cards to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Will the rights we fought so hard for be eroded by a newly appointed executive branch?
As one of the couples making history at the Indiana Statehouse when Hoosier marriage was triumphantly legalized, my wife and I aren't overly concerned about the legitimacy of our marriage being overturned. It is, however, certainly a possibility.
In regard to job equality, our President-elect, who doesn't shy away from strong reactions, has said he doesn't think someone's sexuality "should be a reason" for them to be fired. He doesn't think?
Our concerns were even more solidified when Trump said he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. Employers, landlords, healthcare providers and business owners could refuse to show equality to LGBT individuals as long as they're motivated by their religious beliefs. President Obama's executive order prohibiting this same discrimination would be effectively overturned.
My biggest worry, however, is for transgender rights. Trump has flipped like a pancake on this issue. He first supported Obama's efforts to allow students to choose their bathroom, then supported the law in North Carolina that pushed individuals to use the restroom that coincides with their birth certificate. Lately he's saying he wants each individual state to decide.
But it goes beyond bathrooms. I worry that Title IX's prohibition against sex-based discrimination will not include gender identity. This could make school a dangerous place for trans students.
And, no one knows better about the danger of our Vice President-elect than an LGBT Hoosier. Mike Pence has a long history of LGBT discrimination, starting with publicly opposing Obama's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" legislation, then moving into requesting public funding of conversion therapy. And who can forget his support of the bakery refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding? This knowledge wasn't lost on Trump, and his choice of Mike Pence as his running mate is beyond disturbing. The fact that Pence is leading Trump's transition team is troublesome to all of us.
I would hope all Americans, not just the LGBT community, are concerned about an overall feeling that our country has given the thumbs-up to a person who hated and name-called and bullied his way into the White House. That suddenly it's alright to discriminate against, poke fun at and dislike someone just because they're different than you are.
Sometimes it's the unknowns that are the scariest, and a country under President Trump is filled with them. But there's still hope. We need to point our efforts toward winning the midterm elections and placing moderate legislators in office in 2018. This alone could help us control LGBT legislation. We know that time is on our side and that we must prioritize continuing education around LGBT issues. Eventually, the American public will demand equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
My Facebook newsfeed is a microcosm of the great divide separating Americans who live in relative comfort from those who live paycheck-to-paycheck. On one side is a friend with a serious pre-existing condition. She couldn't afford to purchase health insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act and relied on employer-based coverage that couldn't turn her away. The ACA enabled her to go out on her own and unleash her entrepreneurial talents.
On the other side is another friend. She's a nurse, but has been a stay-at-home mom since her youngest was born three years ago. Her husband is self-employed and the premium for their family of four is $1,300/month. It has increased since the implementation of the ACA, which has a lot of people legitimately complaining that it's made their insurance less affordable. How did this happen?
Eighty-five percent of the population is insured through an employer or government-sponsored plan that is not allowed to deny them care based on a pre-existing condition; generally, most consumers don't know the real premium cost for these plans because they're subsidized, and the insured is only responsible for a portion of it.
The first goal of the ACA was to reform the non-group insurance market, which serves about 7 percent of the population. Because these plans were not subsidized, they kept costs low for their healthy consumers by excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions or rescinding plans for people when they got sick. The system prior to the ACA served the healthy, like my nurse friend and her family, at the expense of those with pre-existing conditions, like my other friend and her son.
The ACA told insurers they couldn't do that anymore. Everyone in the non-group market had to be guaranteed coverage at the same rate, adjusted only for factors like age, geographic area and tobacco use. The purchasing mandate promised insurers healthy enrollees to help spread the increased costs associated with delivering care to those with pre-existing conditions. The subsidies were provided to make the insurance affordable for low-income earners, essentially mimicking the existing markets where employer and government-sponsored administrators subsidize the costs.
In the context of my friend with a pre-existing condition, the ACA did exactly what it was supposed to do. With subsidy assistance, she was able to secure an affordable plan for her and her son that she was priced out of before. However, the ACA was not designed to help my other friend, whose healthy family could already afford insurance in the non-group market. Their previous rates — artificially lowered as a result of denying care to sick people — increased in response to covering them. Adding insult to injury, they weren't eligible for any subsidy to help with the increase.
Self-employed individuals who provide value to the market shouldn't be punished by our accidental health care system that favors employers over entrepreneurs. The Band-Aid fix to this problem is to provide this group with subsidies so they're not pulling back on their savings or other spending to have the security of health insurance. That's what Hillary Clinton proposed, which will likely never come to fruition.
It doesn't solve the longer-term problem that America has a ridiculously overpriced and mismanaged health care system, but few in Congress are willing to take on the lobbies necessary to implement the wide-sweeping changes required to control costs. The ACA is the best market-based solution our representative democracy can muster if the goal is to ensure everyone has access to affordable health care.
Paul Ryan doesn't believe health care is a right and has no problem booting those who can't afford insurance off the rolls if it allows him to achieve his primary policy goal of gutting entitlement programs. But I'm not sure average voters agree with that philosophy. Fundamentally, I think most Americans agree that someone shouldn't die or go bankrupt because they are excluded from obtaining insurance. Sadly, we're on a fast and furious track back to treating health care as a privilege enjoyed only by the healthy and wealthy.
Some years ago, an editor asked several people, me among them, to write for a newspaper’s blog.
The editor assured us they would monitor the comments section on the blog so that no one said anything disrespectful or hurtful about us.
I laughed and told him not to worry on my account.
Given that I’d spent my career as a newspaper columnist, an American Civil Liberties Union executive director and a radio talk-show host, just as a matter of intellectual curiosity I wanted to see if someone could think of something to call me I hadn’t heard before.
Besides, I added, the public arena is a place where the hits are real. They sometimes hurt. Anyone who doesn’t understand or accept that shouldn’t step onto the field.
I thought about that when I learned of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s experience with the Broadway show, “Hamilton.” Pence saw the production Nov. 18 and was greeted by both cheers and boos from the audience as he walked in.
During the curtain call, with the diverse cast backing him, the actor who plays Aaron Burr, Brandon Dixon, thanked the vice president-elect for attending and said on behalf of the performers he hoped that both Pence and President-elect Donald Trump would be protective of the diversity the show represents and that makes America great. Dixon used Pence’s title – vice president-elect – and spoke respectfully throughout his brief remarks, which lasted just a bit longer than a minute.
Trump reacted with anger.
He tweeted: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed at the theater last night by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”
And then: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that in just a few weeks Donald Trump will place his hand on the Bible, raise his right hand and take an oath of office to, among other things, protect Americans’ rights to speak their minds, assemble peaceably and petition government for a redress of grievances. Let’s also overlook the fact that, should he refuse to defend these constitutional rights, Trump could be subject to impeachment proceedings and removal from office.
Let’s also, for the time being, ignore the reality that what the cast of “Hamilton” did was a long way from shouting “You lie!” at the president of the United States during the State of the Union or, to put things in a more Trump-specific context, from waging a years-long campaign questioning not just Barack Obama’s legitimacy as president but as a citizen of the United States.
Instead, let’s focus on something else.
Soon, Donald J. Trump is going to become commander-in-chief of the greatest military force in history and leader of the free world.
At what point is he going to put on his big-boy pants and realize that hearing criticism is part of the job?
It is an article of faith on the left that Trump is little more than a bully. And there is ample evidence that Trump likes to try to bully and intimidate people who disagree with him.
But he’s also something else.
Our next president has skin so thin it and he shouldn’t be exposed to real air and sunlight. Whenever someone – anyone – says something, however inconsequential, about him he doesn’t like, he reacts like a sleep-deprived baby who’s just lost his favorite toy.
The true power of the presidency involves setting the nation’s agenda. Successful presidents focus on big goals – and they stay focused through criticism, hardship and unremitting opposition. They certainly don’t allow themselves to be distracted by something like a curtain call request at a Broadway show.
Donald Trump chose to run for president. He chose to step into the world’s biggest arena, a place where the hits come hard and often.
If he continues to whine every time someone casts a harsh look his way – continues to let everyone know he can be knocked off mission by criticism – he’s going to fail himself, the people who voted for him and, most important, this country.
The presidency of the United States is a tough job.
No crybabies need apply.
The Bible says it best, in Galatians 6:7 (KJV):
"For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
The election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States has yielded little but fury. Demonstrators upset about this elevation to the world's most powerful office have taken to the streets in cities across America to protest. Some of Trump's more unsavory supporters have seen his triumph as license to come out of the shadows with racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements and graffiti.
Trump's surrogates and apologists have responded the tumult by calling for calm.
They say the supporters of defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should accept the election's results and move on. They say this even though Republicans in general and their candidate in particular resolutely and notoriously refused to accept not just Barack Obama's two elections to the presidency but also his legitimacy as an American.
These surrogates also say it is Clinton's and Obama's responsibility "to set the tone" for the country.
They're wrong about that.
Hillary Clinton may have claimed more popular votes than Trump did, but she didn't win the election. Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot.
Neither one of them was elected to be the next leader of the free world.
Donald Trump was.
It's his job to set the tone.
It's his responsibility to lead now.
In the days leading up to and after the election, many of Trump's spokespeople lamented how "offensive" Clinton's comment was in labeling half of the Republican's supporters as being part of a "basket of deplorables." They said it was wrong to demean other Americans in this way.
It's a fair criticism.
It's worth noting, though, that Clinton never said she wanted to arrest those people. She never said she wanted to ban them from the country. She never said she wanted to build a wall to keep them out. And she never said she wanted to punch them in the face for showing up at her rallies.
But President-elect Trump did.
Trump has said that he wants to bring our profoundly fractured country together.
If he means it, he could start by accepting the responsibility of his office.
He could set an example.
He could reassure the more than 50 percent of the American electorate that didn't vote for him that he will be their president, too.
He could say that some of the things he said in the heat of the campaign were wrong. He could apologize for his more offensive comments.
Most important, he could reassure everyone in this country that no one who has not violated the law or threatened this nation, regardless of where they were born or how they pray, need fear either prosecution or persecution.
In other words, he could lead.
Thus far, though, it seems he has chosen to go in a different direction. Instead of signaling that he has heard the fears and concerns of his fellow citizens, Trump tweeted:
"Now professional protestors, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"
Perhaps, but his response misses the point.
The moment Donald Trump was elected president, this story stopped being about him.
Now, it's about the country.
It's about us as a nation.
He, as president-elect, can understand and accept that.
Or he can continue to demonize people who disagree with him. He can continue to blame others for not offering the leadership that it is his responsibility to provide. He can continue to divide the nation rather than unite it.
That approach has carried him to the White House.
But it won't make him a successful president.
Anger will only produce more anger. Division will only produce more division. Fury and intolerance will only be met with more fury and intolerance.
The Bible speaks to that, too — in Hosea:
"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."
[Editor's note: While we are aware that there are in fact three candidates for U.S. Senate in Indiana, the focus of this piece is on Republican Todd Young. The assumption is made that based on his past Senate history, Democrat Evan Bayh would certainly act on nominations. And Lucy Brenton is a Libertarian; as a party, they believe in the strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution, which dictates the Supreme Court nomination process.]
I have plenty of friends who are Republicans. But as some may have guessed, many of my Republican friends are embarrassed by their presidential nominee. I feel their pain.
So what's a smart and logical, yet loyal Republican voter to do?
Among my friends who still plan to vote for Donald Trump, it is common for them to say their main reason is to "protect the court." This means that the one thing they want from Trump, and apparently trust him to do successfully, is to nominate quality members to our highest court. Sort of, that is.
Many of my conservative friends claim to subscribe to either a "strict constructionist" approach to judicial review, or more appropriately the "original intent" perspective of our founding document. The late Justice Antonin Scalia and current Justice Clarence Thomas get labeled as constructionists, though Scalia took issue with that word.
The reason for this reference is that the original intent of the appointment process was specifically to limit, if not eliminate, politics from the judicial branch. Additionally, the lifetime appointments were specifically designed for that purpose, so that the court could act on principles of law without fear of repercussion when the result may be unpopular or antipartisan.
The court first convened on Feb. 2, 1790. From 1789 through 1970, the average tenure of a Supreme Court justice was just under 15 years. Since then, the average amount of time served is just over 26 years.
On average, a president appoints 2.6 justices during his or her (I love writing that) term. President Jimmy Carter is the only president to not make an appointment to the court in the last 147 years. President Andrew Johnson never got his chance either. The modern trend is expected to continue.
So are my reluctant Trump supporters right? Should we cast our votes in a couple of weeks with the assembly of the bench in mind?
To some extent, the answer is yes. But only with regard to appointing capable and quality justices. Too many voters think that a justice appointed by Trump will be an unconditional crusader for pro-gun and pro-life policies. And my point here today is that this assumption is made in error.
First, jurists are not policy makers. Even those who are described as "activists" do not get to legislate freely as if they were elected to Congress. They issue decisions based on the matters brought before them. And circumstances change. People change. Even Supreme Court justices' minds change.
Justice Thomas is celebrating his 25th anniversary on the court this week, and he has been committed to his "original intent" approach for that entire quarter century. But Justice Anthony Kennedy preceded Thomas on the court, and he has continued to famously evolve during his time.
Kennedy, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, wrote the landmark majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, making same-sex marriage legal in America.
Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote not one, but two majority opinions upholding aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Judging by the stakes put on the judicial appointment process in this election season, this sort of thing would seem almost treasonous to today's GOP.
But it isn't.
Conservative judges and liberal judges alike, who are historically worthy of appointment to the high court, are usually thinkers. Thinking people, who are not beholden to partisanship, are usually prone to decisions that make sense, at least constitutionally speaking.
In November, we are not voting for Scalia's replacement. We are voting to elect a president and a U.S. senator who will have constitutional responsibilities to uphold in the appointment process. Those are two very different things.
What has occurred in the Senate since Scalia's passing is disappointing. As a people, we generally look down on walk-outs, shutdowns, filibusters, and blockades. I never trusted Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, when he said the next president should fill the vacancy. He clearly announced that with the thought that the next president would be the GOP's guy, and not the Democrats' woman.
I believed before McConnell's Feb. 14 blockade announcement that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. It was predictable. And a Madame President would be an equally undesirable scenario for McConnell and an identical result for America: a continued blockade by the Senate.
That is unless control of the Senate changes also.
Bluntly, Congressman Todd Young should be required to disclose his intentions regarding this matter before Election Day. He is running for the U.S Senate, and that body is required to provide "advice and consent" on nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. Does Young believe the Senate should act on nominations or not?
This is the job for which he is running. He either wants the job or he doesn't.