Same-sex couples are showing up at Buffalo City Hall to get married now, fearing they might not be able once Donald Trump becomes president.
Both sides of the abortion debate are bracing for what happens when Trump appoints justices to the Supreme Court.
And business owners and workers look forward to Trump dismantling trade agreements they hope will return manufacturing jobs to the United States.
Trump’s rise to power has created expectations of dramatic changes to some of the nation’s most contentious issues – abortion, marriage equality, health care, immigration.
But the reality is his election win has created mostly unknowns and questions about what a President Trump actually can and cannot do.
The only certainty?
Hope and fear.
Mary Theresa Stengel at one time advocated for health care reform, and she knows about the advantages of President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act. Not only did she push for his signature legislation, she used it.
That’s why she views Trump’s election, and its effect on “Obamacare,” as a major step backward.
“I’m just devastated that all the progress we made will be shattered,” she said. “I have been a delighted ACA beneficiary since it first went into effect.”
She cites Obamacare programs designed to prevent disease and health complications that might no longer be available under a new federal approach.
“What if someone’s kidney disease goes undetected until they need dialysis?” she asked. “What if blood pressure doesn’t get checked until they have a stroke? Or dental, people will go without preventive care because they can’t afford it.”
The reality: Trump promises to “replace” Obamacare, but he also reiterated last week he may retain provisions for insuring adult children up to 26 and prohibiting coverage for pre-existing conditions.
But there is also a “political reality” facing Trump and legislators up for re-election in 2018.
"If there is a huge repudiation of Obamacare without a significant substitution, those people will be in danger of losing their seats,” said John E. Bartimole, president of the Western New York Healthcare Association. “Trump will be pressured by Congress to make sure people are protected.
“Even if he had a magic wand, it’s going to take a while,” he added.
Through the course of four congressional campaigns, local industrialist Jack Davis placed opposition to foreign trade agreements at the top of his agenda.
He argued that tThe North American Free Trade Agreement and other pacts robbed the nation of good paying jobs and depleted its middle class.
But Davis said he knew on Election Day that attitudes might be changing when Trump supporters filled the parking lot of his Amherst polling place.
“He’s the savior of the U.S. economy,” Davis said. “I fought this for 15 years, and everything I predicted happened – job loss and the middle class losing income.”
Davis expects Trump will follow through on his campaign promises and renegotiate NAFTA and other pacts, even if some experts say the North American economy has become too inter-dependent for it to ever happen.
The reality: Trump could opt out of NAFTA with six months notification to participants, said Professor Meredith Kolsky Lewis of the University at Buffalo Law School. But other questions surround the fate of the original enabling legislation or whether the leaders of Canada and Mexico would join in a renegotiation.
“This is uncharted territory,” said Kolsky, an expert on international trade, “because there has been no withdrawal from a trade pact since the mid-1860s.”
Trump’s move could also trigger various World Trade Organization rules and regulations or even a trade war, she said. What would result?
“It would probably be the case that some small slice of U.S. business would benefit, others would be negatively affected,” she said, pointing especially to the auto industry which has established an inter-dependent supply chain across North America as a result of NAFTA.
Trump also campaigned strongly against ratification of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new trade pact that would have reduced tariffs on many imported brand name goods and a centerpice of Obama’s effort to “pivot” U.S. trade and foreign policy toward Asia. The Washington Post reported last week that the Senate’s new minority leader – Sen. Charles E. Schumer – told the AFL-CIO Executive Council that Congress will not approve it.
Five same-sex couples walked into Buffalo City Hall last Wednesday – the day after Trump’s election - seeking marriage licenses.
Typically, just two or three a week show up.
That’s no coincidence, according to people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Trump’s election left many scared that he will undo political gains over the past eight years, including marriage equality.
The reality: Trump hasn’t opposed same-sex marriage.
“These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that,” Trump said in his interview with “60 Minutes.”
Besides, it would be difficult to challenge the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that states could not ban same-sex marriages, because someone would have to claim they were harmed by marriage equality, said Lucinda M. Finley, a professor in the University at Buffalo School of Law.
“You can’t just say, ‘I don’t like it. My religion doesn’t believe in it.’ It has to be real harm,” Finley said.
But there’s a wariness because Trump also has “taken every stance possible” on some issues and his actions have been contradictory, said Bryan Ball, president of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, an LGBT political organization.
Trump has pledged to overturn all of the executive orders under the Obama administration, which have included protecting the rights of transgender students, Ball said. And he chose a running mate in Mike Pence, who has a record of opposing gay rights while as governor of Indiana and as a member of Congress.
For pro-life advocates, Trump’s election offers hope.
“It’s likely that many in executive branch offices who promote anti-life and anti-religious freedom policies will be replaced,” said Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.
That’s why pro-choice advocates are fearful.
“Anyone who believes in reproductive freedom should be very worried,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York State Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Trump told “60 Minutes” that he plans to nominate a Supreme Court justice who will be “very pro-life” and that “if it were overturned, it would go back to the states.”
Gallagher noted that Trump could rescind executive orders such as the Health and Human Services mandate forcing some religious institutions to offer insurance providing for contraceptives even if against their beliefs.
“Nothing is going to change overnight, but we are encouraged to have someone taking a look at life issues,” said Cheryl Calire, director of pro-life activities for the Diocese of Buffalo .
Many states have been open to restricting access to abortions, Ossorio said, hoping that path leads to a Supreme Court case overturning Roe vs. Wade.
The reality: The high court makeup will be altered with the next two appointments. The vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia – and maybe more – are likely to be filled during Trump’s first term.
Finley, the UB law professor who also has a long history of defending abortion rights and who has argued abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court, explained that “the real fight - the bitter, bitter fight - “ over a Supreme Court appointment will be the one filled after Scalia’s replacement is named, depending on which justice leaves next.
“What would be the current 5 to 4 vote one way would switch to 5 to 4 the other way,” she said.
Current Senate rules could require 60 votes if the minority party decided to filibuster, she said.
Trump said as many as 3 million illegal immigrants with criminal records could be deported soon after he takes office, creating widespread fear even among those who came to the United States legally – including refugees.
The reality: Trump’s orders would speed up the work that started two years ago under Obama, which focused on deporting illegals with the most violent criminal records.
“Trump is going to ramp it up and make it a more significant operation,” said Michael Berger, a long-time immigration attorney in Amherst.
That has led to questions about the accuracy of Trump’s estimates, the cost of deportation, legal challenges and the government’s ability to deal with the heavy case load. The biggest question may be how he will handle the remaining 8 or 9 million undocumented immigrants who have posed no threat and established roots in the U.S.
“They’re definitely at risk,” Berger said. “How much he is going to do remains to be seen.”
As for refugees – those who were taken in by the United States after fleeing war and persecution in their own country – they may face prolonged background checks that would take them longer to get their green card, Berger said.
Resettlement agencies are trying to reassure refugees that they are legally in the United States – and safe.
“We are working hard to make sure our clients know they are welcome and supported,” said Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo.
Muslims in the United States see a rising backlash against them, saying Trump fueled it with his pledge in December to deny Muslims entry into the United States. He later seemed to alter that position to target countries linked to terrorism.
“Right now, people are having difficulty at work. They’re being harassed on the streets and in schools,” said Faizan Haq, a lecturer at SUNY Buffalo State and founder of the group WNY Muslims. “We have seen many incidents where people are told, ‘Go back home. You don’t belong here.’”
The reality: The FBI this week reported an overall rise in hate crimes during 2015, the biggest increase coming against Muslim Americans. There were 257 reported attacks against Muslims last year, up 67 percent from the prior year.
Trump said last weekend that he was “saddened to hear” about reports of harassment and threats against Muslims and other minorities.
“And I say,‘Stop it.’ If it...helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’”
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