This week, the media got its hands on some of the most damning evidence the public has yet seen regarding the Trump administration’s possible collusion with Russian representatives. In connection to reporting by the New York Times, emails between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. were released. The emails indicate the lawyer’s connection to the Kremlin, declare Russia’s support for the Trump campaign, and indicate a plot to release compromising information about Hillary Clinton (keeping in mind this exchange happened about a year ago, during the campaign). There is time yet to debate whether or not this defines collusion, and even whether collusion is in fact a crime—but for better or worse, the reports are going to fire up talk of impeachment again.
To be perfectly clear, we’re not jumping the gun on this issue. Tracking impeachment odds has become a regular activity for a lot of people, whether that means those looking to bet on it or just those who are hoping to see Donald Trump kicked out of the White House. It’s almost become a form of entertainment for many people at this point. That said, impeachment would seem to remain a long shot given that Trump’s own party controls Congress. However, if this week’s revelations show one thing, it’s that talk about impeachment isn’t going anywhere.
So perhaps it’s time to ask an important question not all of us have allowed ourselves to think about too specifically before: what would impeachment mean for LGBTQ rights?
So far under Trump’s Presidency, actual LGBTQ rights haven’t actually come under direct assault (though the administration has certainly leaned toward allowing for certain types of persecution in less direct ways). But many would argue that the general social climate in the U.S. has turned against members of this community in troubling ways. Trump’s rise to the White House has, whether directly or indirectly, given a larger platform to those who do not see all Americans as equal, and the administration has done little to stop their rhetoric or influence. Throughout June, the White House neglected to acknowledge LGBT Pride Month, and polls have indicated that LGBTQ community members feel less safe under this administration.
These are serious problems, and they’re why LGBTQ groups and leaders are largely working against the Trump agenda. But there is also reason to believe that impeachment is actually a dangerous prospect for the community. That’s because it would almost certainly lead us to President Mike Pence (unless Pence was also implicated in the collusion investigation), and Pence actually has a more problematic history on LGBTQ rights than does Trump or anyone else in the administration.
Simply put, Pence has a long history of anti-LGBTQ stances, from opposing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to suggesting that gay couples signal “societal collapse.” He has opposed gay marriage, supported conversion therapy, and has fought against legislation designed to reduce hate crimes. Overall, he’s indicated an actual willingness to resist and diminish LGBTQ rights with a pen in his hand and legislation on his desk.
This is not to suggest that LGBTQ community members uncomfortable with Trump should resist impeachment by any means. But unfortunately, there aren’t great outcomes in this discussion. The man in the White House has arguably worsened the social atmosphere for LGBTQ Americans; the man who could replace him might potentially be a bigger threat.