After ignoring LGBTQ Pride month since he took office—and moving to roll back LGBTQ rights in so many areas—President Donald Trump had the gall to tweet about celebrating Pride on the eve of Pride month, in a couple of tweets on Friday in which he also claimed he had “launched” an effort to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.
But Trump’s celebration of Pride is as fraudulent and calculated as his claim to be fighting to decriminalize homosexuality. This is in fact an attempt to portray himself as supportive of LGBTQ people as he gears up for the 2020 re-election campaign.
The goal is less about getting much of the community’s backing—which will be near impossible—but more about keeping or getting the support of many others who might be turned off by blatant anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
It’s exactly what Trump did in 2016. And the media in particular should be forewarned this time around that it’s all one big sham.
Trump’s attacks on LGBTQ rights from early in his presidency have been documented, from his Twitter announcement in July of 2017 that he was banning transgender people in the military to his Justice Department’s federal court brief, filed at about that same time, defending discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people in employment.
But in the past several weeks the assault on LGBTQ rights has ramped up aggressively. The president trumpeted the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) expansion of a so-called conscience rule allowing for health care providers—including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and teachers—to turn away LGBTQ people and others based on religious grounds.
HHS’ Office of Civil Rights last week also proposed a new rule to strip protections from discrimination in the Affordable Care Act which, at first, seemed solely to affect transgender people—terrible enough—but upon further scrutiny it became clear would allow discrimination against all LGBTQ people.
That followed a new rule by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ending protections in federally-funded homeless shelters for transgender people.
The Trump administration will soon roll back an Obama administration ban on discrimination against gay and lesbian couples among federally-funded adoption and foster care agencies, according to a report in Axios.
The State Department also appears to be using challenges to birthright citizenship of gay and lesbian parents’ children who were conceived and born, sometimes with the help of egg donors and surrogates, in other countries—even though one or both parents are U.S. citizens—as another way to diminish same-sex marriage.
Trump judicial nominee Howard Nielson Jr., who as an attorney defended California’s Proposition 8 (which banned same-sex marriage) by arguing that homosexuality is a choice, was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate last week as a district court judge in Utah.
Nielson is just one of a slew of federal judges with hostility to LGBTQ rights Trump has appointed.
While Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, claimed in confirmation hearings that the landmark Obergefell marriage equality decision is settled law, Gorsuch wrote a dissent in a case in 2017 in which he invited state courts to challenge Obergefell, and neither justice has shown deference for precedent, alarming the court’s liberals.
How could Trump convince political reporters to push the notion that he has, at worst, a “mixed” record on LGBTQ rights and, at best, is pretty good compared to other Republicans?
He succeeded in doing just that 2016, in part by simply using the term “LGBTQ” in his speech at the Republican National Convention—something no Republican candidate had ever done—claiming he’d protect “LGBTQ citizens.” His record now, however, is quite clear.
Except Trump’s already showing us how he’s going to attempt to obscure it, with tweets like the ones on Friday, which get breathless headlines from too many of the media. And with interviews like the one he did two weeks ago, in which Trump responded to a Fox News interviewer’s question about Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg’s same-sex marriage by saying, “I think it’s absolutely fine.”
He went on to agree with the interviewer that it’s a “sign of great progress,” adding, “Yeah, I think it's great. I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with, I have no problem with it whatsoever.” His interviewer, Steve Hilton, didn't raise Trump's opposition to marriage equality and his appointment of judges hostile to LGBTQ rights.
Trump and his defenders, which include gay Republicans such as his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, are pointing to a supposed efforts to combat homophobia worldwide right on cue.
Grenell earlier this year had in fact announced a “push” by the Trump administration to fight the criminalization of homosexuality around the globe.
It was odd coming from an ambassador—located in another country—and the state department in Washington hadn’t announced any specific plan. Even Trump seemed unaware of this effort when asked about it by a reporter, responding, “I don't know which report you're talking about.”
As the New York Times reported, fighting criminalization of LGBTQ people in other countries, is, according to the State Department, “longstanding” policy from the Obama years, and it was “unclear…whether the decriminalization effort was, in fact, new.”
It would be nice if this were one pro-LGBTQ Obama initiative the Trump administration has decided to continue—unlike the many it is rolling back—but it hardly makes Trump a savior for LGBTQ people.
It does, however, allow Trump to attack Muslims in broad strokes. The context of that 2016 RNC speech was that Trump would defend “LGBTQ citizens” from a “hateful foreign ideology,” cynically using LGBTQ people’s safety as another opportunity to engage in Islamophobia.
But it’s a hateful domestic ideology, promoted by Trump-supporting evangelical Christians, who are the greatest threat to LGBTQ rights in the U.S. And Trump has been recklessly following through on promises to them, systematically stripping the rights of LGBTQ people.
This isn’t a mixed record. It’s brutal and abhorrent. And that is something reporters must be clear about, no matter what Trump says on Twitter, or in a Fox News interview, a campaign speech, or anywhere else.