Trump Missed Chance to Move GOP on Gay Rights

Trump Missed Chance to Move GOP on Gay Rights August 10, 2016

Earlier today, the Washington Post published an article by Jeff Guo titled Donald Trump is teaching the GOP a different way to embrace gay rights. I read the entire article through, and I am so not on board. There is absolutely nothing in the article to suggest that either Trump or the GOP are embracing gay rights—unless one believes that the real threat to gay rights comes from radical Islamic terrorism, as Trump seems to. Have a look at this line, for instance:

It would be a stretch to call Trump a gay-friendly candidate — he still opposes same-sex marriage — but he supports other LGBT rights and has publicly declared himself a “real friend” to the community.

Nope. So much nope. What “other” LGBT rights does Trump support, pray tell? Guo mentions that Trump came out against trans bathroom bills during the primary, but even Guo admits that quickly backtracked that. Here’s Guo’s take on this:

Though he has tried to walk back some of his statements recently, his liberal reputation on social issues endures.

I’m sorry, what? Is this what the Washington Post has come to? It doesn’t matter if a candidate has a “liberal reputation on social issues” if his positions are avowedly conservative—isn’t it the media’s job to cut through misinformation and present the facts? How hard would it be to mention that Trump has pledged to nominate anti-gay justices to the Supreme Court? Or that Trump has pledged to sign legislation that would permit businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals? Or that Trump has embraced far-right religious leaders and radio personalities who call for the death penalty for homosexuals? Trump has been cozying up to anti-LGBT activists for some time now. A simple google search would have let Guo know this.

Guo next talks about Millennial Republicans’ support for marriage equality and other LGBT rights, which is genuinely interesting. But then he writes this:

These trends stand in stark contrast to the Republican Party platform, which continues to champion “traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman.” To be fair, the Democratic Party platform technically did not support same-sex marriage until 2012; but the party has opposed discrimination against sexual orientation since 1980.

Yet the latest Republican platform, freshly ratified in Cleveland last month, omits any mention of LGBT people. Its section on tolerance condemns discrimination by “race, sex, religion, creed, disability,” — even “national origin” — but remains silent on discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans. Despite another round of lobbying efforts this year from LGBT Republicans, the party did not budge on this stance.

The platform does not in fact remain silent on discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans. Sure, if you search those specific terms you’re not going to find anything, but the platform nevertheless comes down resoundingly in favor of discrimination against LGBT people. Have a look:

We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

That doesn’t look like silence to me. It looks like a pretty sound endorsement of allowing businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

It’s also not all there is in the platform. Look at this, for instance:

We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.

That is a reference to state bills banning the use of gay conversion therapy on minors.

And then there’s this in the platform too:

Every violation of state sovereignty by federal officials is not merely a transgression of one unit of government against another; it is an assault on the liberties of individual Americans. … In obedience to that principle, we condemn the current Administration’s unconstitutional expansion into areas beyond those specifically enumerated, including … school restroom policies. We pledge to restore the proper balance and vertical separation of powers between the federal government and state governments — the governments closest to, and most reflective of, the American people. We encourage states to reinvigorate their traditional role as the laboratories of democracy, propelling the nation forward through local and state innovation.

And that is a stance against new federal guidelines that grant transgender students access to bathrooms that match their gender identity, and in favor of allowing states to pass bills like North Carolina’s HB2, which bars transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that match their gender identities and is currently being challenged in court by Obama’s justice department.

There are two problems here. First, a party’s presidential candidate typically has a decent amount of influence over the party’s platform.  Trump, for his part, chose to stay out. “His guys have not shown up and said, ‘Change this, change that,’” one platform author reported to the New York Times in the article linked above. Guo does not address this. If Trump were indeed pushing the GOP to change its approach to LGBT rights, you would have expected to see him influencing the platform committee to reflect that change. He most expressly didn’t.

Second, Guo fails to mention that this was in fact the most anti-gay platform in the history of the Republican Party. Instead, he writes that despite lobbying from LGBT Republicans, “the party did not budge.” This is simply not true. The party did budge—a lot—and all of it toward more forceful GOP opposition to LGBT rights.

But we’re still not done. Toward the end of Guo’s article, there’s this:

At the state level, meanwhile, the culture wars have never been more raucous. Recent legislative fights over religious freedom, the rights of Christian bakeries and transgender people in public bathrooms have created the impression that hot-button social issues still command the political discourse around the nation. LGBT activists characterize these trends in state lawmaking as part of the conservative backlash to the Supreme Court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage.

But Trump has given us a hint of what that future party might look like. In the wake of the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, where a man pledging allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people, Trump connected his sympathy for the LGBT community with his suspicion of immigrants and Islam.

My jaw is on the floor here. For one thing, the national Republican Party platform absolutely did include all of these issues. This isn’t just a state level thing. It’s a national level thing. It’s not just growing “more raucous” at the state level, it’s also affecting the national platform, which is far to the right on LGBT issues than any other platform ever. For another thing, this very week Trump is speaking at a “Rediscovering God in America” conference in Florida, alongside these speakers:

—Mat Staver, whose Liberty Counsel Action sent out the invitation to the event and who is scheduled to speak, has gained a national reputation by representing Kim Davis and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore through the affiliated Liberty Counsel. Last month, Staver denounced memorial gatherings for the victims of the Orlando nightclub attack as “homosexual love fests.” Staver has claimed that gay people are “demonic,” seek to abuse children and are similar to terrorists, and has warned that gay rights victories could lead to “forced homosexuality” and “another civil war.” At the same time, he has praised countries that outlaw same-sex relationships. (Learn more about Mat Staver here).

—David Barton, a Republican Party activist who styles himself as a historian, thinksthat God is justly preventing a cure for HIV/AIDS because it is a divine “penalty” for homosexuality, and has lamented that public schools try to “force” students “to be homosexual” when homosexuality really should be regulated by the government. (Learn more about David Barton here).

—Maine pastor Ken Graves preaches against “militant homofascism” that he says “seeks to take over our land and make it Sodom” and argues that gay people cannot build happy families because they are “depressed.”

—Bill Federer, a Religious Right activist and conspiracy theorist, believes that gay rights are bringing about the Islamist takeover of America.

That’s right, Trump is speaking alongside some of the most virulent anti-gay voices in the nation—and granting them legitimacy by doing so—the very week Guo published his article on Trump showing the GOP “a different way to embrace gay rights,” and Guo doesn’t even mention this. How much research did Guo actually do for this piece, exactly? This just seems sloppy!

And what exactly is this “different way to embrace gay rights” that Guo says Trump is teaching the GOP? It’s this:

Trump alluded to this idea again last month in Cleveland, where he apparently became the first Republican presidential nominee to reference gay people in his acceptance speech. “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” he said at the GOP convention.

Do you see the problem here? Trump says he’ll do everything in his power to protect LGBT people “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” while doing utterly nothing to protect LGBT people from the violence and oppression of a hateful domestic ideology—that of his own party.

Reading Guo’s article was frustrating because he could have written a very interesting and insightful piece with the same basic information if he’d taken a slightly different direction. He could have used his statistics on Millennial Republicans to argue that the GOP needs to change its position on LGBT rights or it will lose voters. He then could have suggested that Trump could have found a way to do this, had he stood up against the GOP’s anti-gay positions rather than caving to absolutely all of them. Then, he could have closed out his article by presenting the Trump phenomenon as a lost opportunity for the GOP to move away from unpopular political positions that will dog the party in the future—an opportunity Trump blew when he chose to cosy up to anti-gay activists and give the platform committee free reign. Now that is an article I would have actually gained something from.

But who am I kidding? Even the title of Guo’s article is misleading. After all, Trump can’t teach the GOP “a different way to embrace gay rights” when the GOP has never embraced gay rights to begin with. That’s how English works.


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