Resist, resist, resist

  • Wednesday June 21, 2017
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Whether you're taking part in the San Francisco Pride parade or watching from the sidelines, one thing is clear: this is the year for resistance.

President Donald Trump is out of control, and his administration is in chaos, so now is the time for LGBTQs who are interested in public service to consider running for office next year or become actively involved in campaigns to elect people who are opposed to Trump's agenda. And that agenda is lengthy. Trump has taken many executive actions, especially to curtail or undo programs that began under President Barack Obama. Actually, Trump and crew can't stand anything that America's first black president accomplished, so they've started chipping away at access to health care, protections for trans students, restoring relations with Cuba, and more. While Congress is its typically dysfunctional self, Trump has taken executive orders to a new level, gutting regulations in sectors like energy (coal) and financial services.

Meanwhile, the Russia scandal is threatening Trump's young presidency. He's hired his own attorney, Vice President Mike Pence has lawyered up, and senior administration officials are getting nervous, according to various news accounts. While this is not (yet) the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, there certainly are eerie parallels of a president consumed with his own power and hell-bent on skirting (if not breaking) laws. Trump is one giant conflict of interest regarding his business dealings and the American people deserve better. They deserve to have a president who won't make decisions on U.S. foreign policy because they benefit his portfolio. They deserve to have a president who can actually devote his attention to running the country.

The dangerous part is that while our attention is distracted by the Russia investigations and Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the president and his administration are busily working to dismantle existing programs on everything from health care to climate change to LGBT rights.

The latest example was last week, when the Commerce Department removed language from its annual equal opportunity statement barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Washington Post reported that after an uproar from LGBT activists, the department restored the language the next day.

But as much as change is needed at the federal level, it's local and state politics where real progress for LGBTQ people can be achieved. California, for example, is leading the way by calling attention to anti-LGBT laws. This year a law went into effect that restricts state employees from using taxpayer money for non-essential travel to certain states. Look for more states to be added as Attorney General Xavier Becerra reviews actions in Texas and elsewhere.

There's no better place to be out and proud than the San Francisco Bay Area. We have allies and LGBT officials who are working to benefit all people. And while there are major issues like homelessness and the high cost of living here, leaders in the region are trying to tackle them too. The Bay Area welcomes everyone; LGBTs here understand the importance of joining with immigrant groups and other minorities, so that we can all benefit from shared experiences, and fight the oppressive Trump regime.


AIDS panel members quit

You know the situation in government is bad when people quit. Recently, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS angrily resigned, saying that Trump doesn't care about HIV.

Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados publicly announced their resignation in a June 16 letter published in Newsweek.

"As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care," Schoettes wrote.

"The Trump administration has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and – most concerning – pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease," he added.

As Trump's continuing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act spark alarm among HIV/AIDS advocates, as we have reported, Schoettes wrote that the ACA has benefitted people living with AIDS.

"And we know who the biggest losers will be if states are given the option of eliminating essential health benefits or allowing insurers to charge people with HIV substantially more than others," Schoettes wrote in the open letter.

"It will be people – many of them people of color – across the South and in rural and underserved areas across the country, the regions and communities now at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic," he continued. "It will be young gay and bisexual men; it will be women of color; it will be transgender women; it will be low-income people."

What Trump really wants to do is gut Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), which would be devastating, not only for PWAs, but millions of low-income people, those with disabilities, families, and others.

These abrupt resignations send a chilling warning to the HIV/AIDS community. Obama released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in 2010 to strengthen the battle against the epidemic. Trump, through inaction, is relegating that blueprint to gather dust on a shelf. No wonder the PACHA members quit.

It's unfortunate that the resignations occurred, because we fear that Trump will either 1) decline to replace them, leaving the panel without a half-dozen members, or 2) replace them with science skeptics who will try to decimate HIV/AIDS funding or reshuffle priorities, like not fighting for greater access to PrEP, especially in parts of the country where it is needed.

It's clear that private donors will need to step in to fill the gap in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS. From funding research to expanding drug access, foundations have a key role to play. We are close to an AIDS-free generation, but that is now threatened by government inaction.

That is a cruel message for the administration to send during Pride Month.