Following the Leader: President Emboldens Republican State Legislators to Introduce Discriminatory Legislation

The Texas State Senate Chamber

Since Donald Trump’s election, state lawmakers have been rejuvenated with a right-wing confidence as they roll out bill after bill in what seems to be a concerted effort to repeal much of the progress made during the Obama administration. Over the past eight years great strides have been made for civil liberties and for the LGBTQ community, with sharp attention focused on improving women’s equality and racial equality, and for regulating the financial industry. And yet the presidential campaign exposed a level of turmoil in our society, as another generation awakened to the injustices of the “American way.” There was much work to be done, concerned citizens realized.

Then, November came. For nearly half of the American people, the election of Donald Trump was one of the most traumatizing and heartbreaking events in memory. The implications of such a leader were grim, and the two months leading up to his inauguration were agonizing. Still, his total inexperience as an elected official gave false hope that he wouldn’t keep many of the promises he made on his campaign trail. It’s now clear he intends to keep as many as he can, which terrifies progressives and moderates.

On the other hand, Trump’s election was a best-case scenario for conservative right-wing politicians who’ve been “trapped” in a democratic administration for eight years. Though bills of a discriminating nature aren’t new (they’re proposed all the time) such bills now carry more weight. When we have a president who is either signing, supporting, or hinting at legislation or executive orders that discriminate against innocent people and may even be unconstitutional, it’s not surprising to see a new wave of similar legislative at the state level.

Bills threatening LGBTQ rights and equality, abortion rights, and access to contraception are being proposed more frequently since Trump’s win.  Last month in Texas, Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt proposed a bill that would not only ban abortions, but criminalize them. He sees no exception in the case of rape, so Tinderholt would effectively consider a rape victim a murderer if she had an abortion. Tinderholt’s apparent disregard for female autonomy regarding reproductive choices informs his belief that zero access to abortion would somehow make women more “responsible.”

Again in Texas, another controversial bathroom bill was proposed in January by Republican State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. The bill would bar transgender people from using the bathroom that matched their gender while in government buildings. In South Dakota, SB 55 passed the Senate in January. If enacted, the bill will allow educators to teach alternative views on evolution and climate change. Primarily supported by religious groups, this measure is not intended to provide alternative points of view so much as protect teachers who wanted to push intelligent design as a scientific theory.

Just two weeks ago, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law the “Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” which would allow the father of an unborn child the legal right to prevent the mother from having an abortion by suing the performing doctor for “injunctive relief.” Parents of expectant minors will also be able to sue. This law has yet to go into effect, but if it does, 95 percent of abortions in the state of Arkansas would be a felony after the first trimester. It’s important to note that there would be no exception for abortion in the case of rape or incest.

While President Trump is in the limelight doing all he can to destroy Democratic progress made over the past several decades, local and state politicians on the far Right will do all they can to slither their bigoted, theocratic agendas past us. We must stay vigilant to threats to our freedoms at all levels of political decision-making, not just the ones coming from the White House.

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