It was an evening that featured a room full of LGBT prejudice and hatred, and in the photographs Ivanka Trump, alleged one-time supporter of LGBT equality, looked like she was enjoying every second.
Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, had the most pictorially successful evening at President Trump’s dinner for around 100 evangelical leaders held in the White House’s State Dining Room.
Garlow, whose passionate hatred of LGBT people appears as powerful as his taste for selfies, managed to get his picture taken with President Trump, Melania Trump, Karen and Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, and—most surprising of all, given that past professed support for LGBT people—Ivanka Trump.
But there she is, smiling with Garlow.
Perhaps she had forgotten, or simply didn’t know, that Garlow has said LGBT marriage is the creation of Satan, and much more besides.
As pointed out by author Jeremy Hooper on Twitter—himself quoting GLAAD’s extensive rap sheet on Garlow—at the Family Leadership Summit in 2017, Garlow said: “The Bible starts with the marriage of a male and a female, and it ends with the wedding in Revelation of a bride and groom.
“The bottom line is this, If I were Satan, I would want to destroy on the earth the image of God. This is why marriage is such a hotbed issue. It’s more than just the issue of homosexuality. It’s much more than that. It’s much more cosmic. It’s big. It’s enormous.
“They want to destroy the very image of God upon the planet. This is a demonic happening in our midst.”
How strange, he so extreme, and Ivanka Trump so opposed to such prejudice!
Garlow also doesn’t think Christians should have to follow laws they don’t like—like marriage equality or anti-discrimination measures. “I’ve got news for you,” Harlow has said. “The Supreme Court is not supreme, overall. And the Supreme Court has passed laws regarding marriage, regarding abortion, and under no condition do we have to follow laws that violate the word of God.”
He imagined that pastors who refused to perform gay wedding ceremonies would be jailed. That didn’t happen.
Still, Christians, Harlow has said, should “rise up” against their oppressors.
Children of gay parents were like children who lost a mom or a dad on 9/11, he said. Marriage equality was like “an enormous storm,” he warned before it happened, with the Gospel “crushed under foot.”
Did he come out with all this as Ivanka was trying, and failing, to nibble daintily at a crostini?
And did Garlow bring up the line again about confused plumbers faced with the male and female ends of piping and plumbing not functioning as they should when found in same-sex relationships?
He has also compared same-sex marriage to slavery.
Ivanka, smiling away at the rank homophobia surrounding her, also had her picture taken with former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who likes to invoke “Sodom and Gomorrah” and “this day of wickedness,” and who has talked about the State Department’s “evil” in pursuing a “gay agenda”—meaning helping persecuted and vulnerable LGBTQ people in other countries.
Ivanka was also photographed with Pastor Robert Jeffress, who thinks of homosexuality as “perverse… a degradation of a person’s mind.”
Perhaps Garlow didn’t know, or had forgotten, that on June 1, 2017, Ivanka tweeted, to herald Pride month: “I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy.”
But just over a month later, when President Trump announced his so-far frustrated and court-blocked attempts to stop transgender people from serving in the military, Ivanka had nothing to say about it to her LGBTQ friends and fellow Americans via Twitter. She has faced consistent criticism that her alleged support for LGBTQ rights and women’s equality are nothing more than useful PR. There has been little evidence that any of the social issues she allegedly holds dear have been enthusiastically backed by her father’s administration, with VP Mike Pence shoveling fuel into its fiercely conservative engine.
For the fiercely religious, anti-LGBT Pence, it was his idea of the best night out at Studio 54, Bianca on a white horse and all.
He tweeted late Monday night that the evening had celebrated “strong and inspiring evangelical leadership. This administration stands for protecting religious liberty for all & is grateful to faith leaders for their tireless service to their neighbors and communities.”
Perhaps Ivanka’s LGBTQ friends could illuminate what her thinking is, and why she was keen this evening to be pictured next to a man who thinks their marriages are “satanic.”
Other guests at the dinner included Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, who first questioned President Obama’s Christianity (later apologizing for doing so), then accused him of “shaking his fist” at God for supporting same-sex marriage.
Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition turned founder and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was also there.
Reed has spent a career fulminating against LGBT people, from legislation against hate crimes to same-sex parenting, and describing the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act as an “Orwellian act of judicial fiat.”
These evangelical leaders and their fervent flocks have now found, in Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two supremely powerful agents of government as keen as they are to pursue conservative social policies. In Trump, they have found a president desperate to maintain a base of support, which they offer.
The Monday dinner followed a series of afternoon meetings between White House officials and faith leaders about issues including immigration, prison reform, and abortion, according to Politico, whose report also cited Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and son of arch-homophobe Jerry Falwell, as saying Sessions was “not on the president’s team, never was.”
Evangelical leaders, like Trump, now see Sessions as betraying the president over his self-recusal from the Russia probe.
However, Sessions’ Christian zealotry remains intact. He recently announced the launch of a Religious Liberty Task Force to support more cases like the baker who felt his beliefs were being trampled by having to provide equality of service to LGBT people.
Attacks and rollings back of LGBT rights and around women’s reproductive rights are now central to the Trump administration’s culture wars, enthusiastically stoked and supported by the evangelical leaders invited for dinner on Monday night.
Ivanka Trump has not been vocal on defending vulnerable groups from such attacks.
For both parties, evangelicals and Trump, the relationship is transactional, and so far successful.
According to the AP, Trump told the leaders their support was “incredible” but said he didn’t feel guilty “because I have given you a lot back.”
The “attacks on communities of faith” are over, Trump told them. The days of undermining “religious freedom” are over too.
Pastor Jeffress told CBN that Trump had a 77 percent approval rating among evangelicals and was “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-conservative judiciary president in history which is why evangelicals continue to support him enthusiastically.”
Strangely, Pastor Jeffress had nothing to say on such subjects as Trump’s alleged adultery and his desire to grab women by the pussy, or at the lack of respect Trump accorded John McCain in death.
But with both parties giving each other what they want so handsomely, why quibble over the devil in the detail?