If Donald Trump wins the next US federal election later this year, Aotearoa/New Zealand needs to start thinking seriously about its future foreign policy. The United States itself may not survive much longer as a coherent nation-state in that context.
What does this have to do with LGBTQI+ New Zealanders? Like most of our fellow inhabitants of this country, I suspect we have a complex picture of the United States. LGBTQIA+ rights had one of its birthplaces in San Francisco and it’s true that to some extent, our country shares liberal social values with the Pacific Northwest and New England states, New Mexico, Minnesota and Hawaii. If that was the entirety of the United States, there wouldn’t be a problem.
There is another America, however, and we loathe it. The Southern United States shares few values with us when it comes to public health, pluralism and diversity and is the festering core of radical fundamentalist Christianity. It provides propaganda, rhetoric, tactics and strategy to their subcultural Christian Right satellites in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Easter Europe and Africa.
The US Christian Right was responsible for the neglect of HIV/AIDS public health expenditure during the early days of that epidemic, with the consequence that millions of gay, bisexual and MSM men, trans women and intravenous drug users were allowed to die.
Total decriminalisation of male homosexuality only took place after a saner Supreme Court issued its Lawrence vs Texas decision, which only occurred twenty years ago. It reversed the earlier Bowers v Hardwick decision from 1986, which upheld the criminalisation of male homosexuality at the same time as Aotearoa/New Zealand passed the Homosexual Law Reform Act. Indeed, there was open collaboration between the US Christian Right and its dependent satellites here in Aotearoa/New Zealand during that debate here.
Although the United States does have national marriage equality after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs Hodges decision in 2015 overturned remaining state obstacles to it, it still lacks federal LGBTQI+ inclusive antidiscrimination laws due to federal Republican obstinacy. The US Christian Right is also the culprit behind legislation against drag shows, protests against drag queen story time library sessions, bans on trans adolescent sports participation, prohibition of trans healthcare access and attacks on trans-inclusive school resources in mainstream public schools.
Family First here imports propaganda and rhetoric from the US Christian Right and indeed, is quite open about it. However, until New Zealand First was resurrected at the last election and became part of the current three-way governing coalition, most New Zealand governments had the good sense to ignore it, centre-left or centre-right.
Unfortunately, fundamentalist Protestants are a sizable constituency within the US Republican Party and have had a disproportionate effect on election outcomes. However, they may have gone too far stacking the US Supreme Court with right-wing judges, for which the first Trump presidency was responsible. There have been massive backlashes in support of abortion rights as a consequence after the Supreme Court struck down the historic Roe v Wade decision in 2022, which had governed access to abortion as a constitutional right since 1973, even within nominally Republican-dominated states.
If that isn’t enough to swing the electoral pendulum toward President Biden, the Democrat Party and liberal sanity, though, here’s what might happen: A second Trump administration and federal Republican Congress try to push through a national abortion ban. Pro-choice US states refuse to enforce the decision. Trump sends in federal troops. There is active conflict between the US federal and pro-choice state governments. Unable to take any more, pro-choice US states secede from the United States. The country enters its Second Civil War.
I’ll leave you to guess what happens to LGBTQI+ Americans in the Southern states who don’t escape from them in sufficient time. Although I suspect Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale may turn out to be prophetic once more- her “Republic of Gilead” religious dictatorship executed LGBTQI+ people, and fundamentalist Protestant “Christian Reconstructionism” or ‘theonomy’ proponents advocate doing exactly that.
This totalitarian philosophy has already been behind Canadian, US and Australian anti-abortion terrorist attacks against medical practitioners, several of whom died in the nineties as a consequence. I suspect the same extremists wouldn’t shirk from a latter-day kristallnacht against Southern US LGBTQI+ communities in the event of civil war. And remember, the US Christian Right already has close relationships with alt-right neofascists…
If this happens, it will be no good depending on that war-torn nation for our defence and international security alliances. Australia and New Zealand need to consider this as a real contingency and plan accordingly.