How the Next President Will Change the Lives of LGBTs

04/15/2015 01:48 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

With announcements from Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (and probably a bunch more very soon), the landscape of the 2016 presidential election is starting to take shape. This could be the most important presidential election in history for LGBT equality.

And whoever winds up being elected President is going to have the power to change the lives of LGBTs in ways that we can't even begin to imagine. Check out my video below for an explanation of just what's at stake:

For starters, let's look at the Supreme Court, where the ages of the justices range from 55 to 82. I'm sure Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in fabulous health and does her best to avoid hazardous contact sports, but it's possible that she (or some of her colleagues) might not be around in four years.

Whether we wind up with President Clinton, Cruz, Rubio or Kardashian, whoever wins in 2016 will likely appoint justices to a court that already has a precarious ideological divide. There's no way to know, for sure, what cases they'll face in a few years, but there are already some major issues that appear likely to come before the court in some form.

At the top of the list: discriminatory laws that target gays and lesbians, such as the one recently passed in Indiana. Back in the '90s, the court decided a similar issue (Romer v. Evans), and that decision is a cornerstone of today's rulings that protect LGBT rights.

The Supreme Court could also hear cases on "pray away the gay" torture camps, or on denial of healthcare to gays and lesbians, or on workers fired for being gay. The court could even hear more marriage cases, even after they rule at the end of the current session.

Supreme Court appointments aren't the only area where the next president will dramatically change the landscape for LGBTs. Over the last seven years, the Obama administration has fixed dozens of laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians. If we get a President Clinton, she could continue that work -- or a President Rubio could reverse it back to where it was under George Bush.

For example, under President Obama, the State Department began including same-sex couples in emergency evacuations -- previously, they could be excluded. The country ended its ban on allowing people with HIV to visit the United States. The administration banned discrimination in emergency shelters, created new regulations to protect LGBTs from sexual abuse in prison, deemed gender transition to be medically necessary, required hospitals to allow same-sex spouses to visit and signed hate crime legislation into law. And then there's the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

An anti-gay president could reverse all of those gains, or even create new laws to disadvantage gays and lesbians. (Just imagine: A Marco Rubio administration might prohibit pizza parlors across the nation from catering gay weddings!)

I can't overstate just how much control the next president is going to have over the lives of gay and lesbian Americans.

It's way too early to predict who the top contenders are going to be -- or even everyone who's going to be running. All that we know for sure is that depending on who wins, it's either going to be an amazing next few years, or a colossal disaster.