BY PAUL SCHINDLER | With Donald Trump a year into his presidential bid, this should come as no big surprise, but on LGBT rights, he is a fraud!
On issue after issue, he has employed a dizzying combination of hyperbole, exaggerations, outright misstatements, even lies, changed and abandoned positions, and contradictory ideas – those last often delivered in the very same speech, even sometimes in the very same sentence.
He has done all that on questions of concern to the LGBT community. And now, to that he adds a vice presidential pick from the homophobic wing of the homophobic party and an embrace of a party platform that the Log Cabin Republicans – the Log Cabin Republicans! – have declared “the most anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history.”
Trump’s most pro-gay posture came during a very early hint he might run for president. In 2000, when he dangled the possibility of seeking the Reform Party nomination, he told the Advocate he supported amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation, just as they exist for race, religion, and gender. With the LGBT community then seeking a far narrower ban on employment discrimination only, that stance was ahead of the curve. But it wasn’t ahead of Bill Bradley, a former New Jersey senator then challenging Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic nomination. The bulk of Trump’s comments to the Advocate about amending the Civil Rights Act were really focused on jealously attacking Bradley, whom he said was “as phony as a $20 Rolex.”
Since that interview, Trump has offered virtually no substantive support for LGBT issues. In 2011, while suggesting he might seek the GOP nomination the following year, he told the Des Moines Register he wasn’t ready to support either marriage equality or civil unions. To Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, he said of gay marriage, “I just don’t feel good about it. I don’t feel right about it.”
When last year’s marriage ruling came down, Trump at first seem disinclined to fan the flames of resistance, saying that even “the most militant” opponents of marriage equality “are saying there’s nothing you can do. Because they’re talking about constitutional amendments, and then they go on to say that that could never happen.” But it wasn’t long before he was saying he would consider appointing justices who would overturn marriage equality. At Pat Robertson’s Regency University, Trump said, “I’ve always said Justice Thomas doesn’t get enough credit,” and when asked whom he might appoint to the high court, he mentioned 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., whom Lambda Legal termed “the most demonstrably anti-gay judicial nominee in recent memory” when appointed to the appeals court in 2005. Other potential nominees he’s since mentioned are similarly opposed to LGBT rights.
Beyond his bobbing and weaving on marriage equality, Trump, to the extent he has talked about LGBT issues, has seemed –– to many queer ears –– little better than facetious. When North Carolina adopted its infamous “bathroom bill,” he was critical of the state for antagonizing business interests but then –– after fiery criticism from Ted Cruz –– crucially clarified that such questions should be decided by the states, not by federal constitutional principles. He gratuitously said Caitlyn Jenner was free to use the bathroom she chooses at Trump Tower, a right available to her since at least 2002, when New York City added gender identity protections to its human rights law. Even more patronizing was Trump’s brag that his exclusive Mar del Lago resort in Florida welcomes membership by gay couples.
Most recently, Trump has claimed, “I’m much better for gays than [Hillary Clinton] is” –– in this case because he would bar entry into the US by Islamic radicals who “wanna kill, they throw them off buildings. They actually throw gays off buildings.” Here, Trump used the horrific killings of 49 people at an Orlando LGBT club to bolster his ugly and unworkable ideas for sealing off the US borders.
As Republicans gathered in recent weeks to draft their party platform, Trump wielded very little visible control over the proceedings. In particular, with some religious conservatives suspicious of his fidelity to their cause, the prospective nominee showed no interest in challenging the party’s anti-gay orthodoxy, which has only hardened over time.
So what did the platform committee – which included Tony Perkins, head of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council, and was co-chaired by right-wing North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx, who once termed allegations that Matthew Shepard was the victim of a hate crime a “hoax” – do? They doubled down on the homophobia and transphobia of past GOP conventions.
The document approved in Cleveland this week calls for appointing Supreme Court justices to overturn last year’s marriage equality ruling or enacting a constitutional amendment superseding it. It manufactures evidence purporting to show that children’s outcomes are hindered if they are raised in households not headed by married heterosexual couples. It opposes restrictions on medical and psychotherapeutic professionals performing so-called conversion therapy on minors. It endorses the so-called First Amendment Defense Act to provide explicit religious exemptions for businesses and even government employees if they choose to discriminate against LGBT people. It opposes government efforts to allow people to access restrooms consistent with their gender identity. And it denounces an emerging legal consensus that existing federal protections on the basis of sex provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well.
Trump’s choice of Indiana Governor Mike Pence is clear evidence that it was not only on the platform that he would bow down to religious conservatives. If Pence has a national profile at all it is due to last year’s “religious freedom” fiasco in Indiana, where the governor signed –– and in a half-assed compromise, later retreated from –– the nation’s most far-reaching anti-LGBT law. That posture was nothing new for Pence, who during 12 years in Congress repeatedly earned ratings of zero from HRC and once proposed diverting HIV prevention dollars into conversion therapy efforts.
After all the progress the LGBT community has made in changing hearts and minds in America, Republicans are still hell-bent on telling us to drop dead. And, over the past year, Donald Trump stormed over 16 competitors in his lust to seize their party’s baton.