ACLU outlines ‘roadmap’ to defending LGBTQ rights in a second Trump term 

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, 2024, in New York.
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on June 13 unveiled a guide pointing to the potential battles ahead for LGBTQ rights — and how to navigate them — if Donald Trump wins the presidential election and returns to power for a second term.

The guide’s release comes less than five months before Trump is set to face his predecessor, President Joe Biden, in the 2024 presidential election — a pivotal moment given recent GOP-led efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and more in statehouses across the country.

The ACLU’s 10-page document predicts that Trump’s second term could begin by reimplementing many of the anti-LGBTQ policies he advanced during his first term, including campaigns to again ban trans troops from the military, erase protections for LGBTQ students, and target gender-affirming care — all while incorporating themes of the far-right’s Project 2025 initiative to reshape the federal government in extreme fashion under the next GOP president. 

The ACLU quotes Trump’s own verbal commitments to nix protections for trans students “on day one” and envisions his administration advancing the position that federal civil rights law does not cover anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The ACLU also expects that a second Trump administration would seek to bar gender-affirming care for transgender people in federal health programs such as the Veterans’ Administration and Medicare.

“For four years, President Trump and his administration left no stone unturned in their effort to roll back federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, including with respect to transgender people’s access to health care, safety for LGBTQ students in our schools, and the right of LGBTQ people to live and work as who we are,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a written statement. “We fully expect a second Trump administration to go further, weaponizing federal law to override state-level protections and mandate discrimination by schools and health care providers nationwide. Regardless of the election’s outcome, we stand ready to fight to uphold the fundamental freedom we are guaranteed by the Constitution to live our lives as we choose.”

In response to these moves, the ACLU anticipates mounting legal challenges to the would-be Trump administration, discouraging Congress from passing laws restricting LGBTQ rights, and collaborating with states to strengthen non-discrimination laws and expand access to gender-affirming care. Moreover, the ACLU says a second Trump presidency would necessitate strong organizing efforts to build broader political coalitions to take on the fight for LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice, immigration rights, and other areas.

Notably, the ACLU sees Congress as a major player in the fight against Trump’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, even if it seems unlikely that many bills advancing LGBTQ rights could become law under a Republican president. The ACLU believes Congress must combine its oversight and investigative abilities, as well as its spending power, to curtail the Trump administration. One way they suggest Congress could take action is by using the appropriations process to hobble Trump’s efforts to advance anti-trans discrimination or by passing a comprehensive non-discrimination bill — like the Equality Act — though, again, that kind of bill has been stubbornly difficult to pass at the federal level with a divided Congress.

“In many states across the country, we have seen the disastrous consequences of a hateful campaign targeting LGBTQ people and their families with discriminatory laws, forcing many from their home states and denying many more the freedom to get the healthcare they need, to live their lives openly, and even to decide what name to go by, “ Mike Zamore, national director for policy and government affairs, said in a written statement. “Should a second Trump administration take office and attempt to implement these kinds of policies nationwide, it could leave transgender people and their families nowhere to hide from extremist politics. We are determined to use every tool at our disposal to oppose any attempt to deny LGBTQ people the freedom to live and love freely and openly.”

Trump continues to lead Biden across the key battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of polling numbers in those states. Trump also leads Biden in most of the main general election polls for the presidency, according to Rear Clear Politics, though Morning Consult’s June 7-9 poll had Biden up by one point. On June 14, 2020, Biden had an 8.4-point lead in the general election polls.