The American people, polls indicate, have not been buying the bill of goods Donald Trump has been selling in his strenuous attempts to represent himself as the “law and order” candidate. They seem to understand Trump is the creator of chaos and the one disrespecting and defying the nation’s laws at every turn, not Biden.
If you needed any additional evidence as to Trump’s hostility to the nation’s laws, as well as its ideals, consider the fact that Trump has even defied the nation’s Supreme Court, with two of his own right-wing appointees, when it comes to issues of civil rights.
Trump cannot even honor the legal judgments of the highest court in the land. Is this the president of law and order? One who seeks to deny Americans civil rights, even when the Supreme Court rules otherwise?
You may recall that two months ago issued a landmark ruling that workplace protections in the Civil Rights Act against discrimination covered gay and transgender people as well. The case hinged on the meaning of the phrase “on the basis of sex.” Did “sex” refer only to a biological male-female binary identity assigned at birth, or did its definition encompass gender identity as well? If the latter, then the protections against workplace discrimination would extend to gay and transgender people as well, meaning people could not be fired or in any way treated unequally because of their gender identity, because of who they are.
Of course, while the Supreme Court issued its ruling about two months ago, the arguments in the case were presented before the court last fall. Everybody knew the decision was forthcoming in the summer months. “Everybody” included Trump’s administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.
It was somewhat suspiciously, then, that just three days prior to the Supreme Court issuing its historic ruling, penned by Trump’s own right-wing appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch, the department of health removed provisions in the Affordable Care Act that protected patients in the healthcare arena from discrimination on the basis of sex, which included gender identity, amending the provision to define sex as the biological male-female binary assigned at birth.
So, while the Supreme Court’s ruling was landmark, it was not, so to speak, comprehensive in terms of protecting Americans from being denied basic civil rights on the basis of their gender identity. While winning protections in the workplace and in employment is certainly huge, the victory was still to narrow, failing to outlaw discrimination in every nook and cranny of American society. Outside the workplace, gay and transgender are still subject to legally-sanctioned discrimination.
Trump’s administration formalized this discrimination when days after the ruling the health department published its modified rules.
The publication of these rules, though, did immediately raise the question as to their legality. Could the Trump administration contradict the Supreme Court’s civil rights legislation?
At a minimum, if not illegal, the health department’s actions were defiant and disrespectful to the Supreme Court and to the rule of law in America.
And the actions revealed such a hostility toward, such a rabid hatred of, gay and transgender people in the department’s refusal to wait for the Supreme Court ruling.
Regardless of what the law of the land turned out to be, Trump’s administration was going to play by its own rules and enforce its own extra-legal hatreds and prejudices with complete disregard for Americans’ civil rights.
As federal judge Frederic Block put it, “The timing might even suggest to a cynic that the agency pushed ahead specifically to avoid having to address an adverse decision.”
Cynicism aside, the question abided as to whether the health department’s rules were illegal precisely because, for all intents and purposes, they were inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision.
This question is now to be decided in court, as Tanya Asapansa-Johnson and Cecilia Gentili, two transgender women from New York, have filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to their attorney Jason Starr, director of litigation at the Human Right campaign, “The government failed to take into account the implications of the Supreme Court decision. That makes this rule unlawful.”
The verdict is out on this one, the story unfinished.
But the verdict is not out on Trump.
He can talk about “law and order” all he wants, but he has demonstrated he has no respect for the rule of law in this country.
What he means by “law and order” is his ability through brutishness, bullying, and abuse of office to inflict and impose his own hatreds and prejudices on the American people.
As we saw in his inability to honor the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, he has no regard for people’s civil rights in this country, for the nation’s ideals, and would prefer to realize his hate by curtailing rather than extending them to more and more Americans.
Law and order?
He cannot even abide a largely right-wing Supreme Court he played a substantial role in staffing.
Hate and inhumanity, not law and order, are Trump’s guiding principles.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.