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In speech, Trump appears to embrace LGBT rights — but gay leaders remain skeptical

Key moments from Donald Trump's speech on immigration in New Hampshire June 13 (Video: Associated Press/Reuters)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made pointed overtures to the LGBT community during a national security speech here in New Hampshire Monday — but quickly drew a sharp rebuke from gay leaders who remained skeptical of his embrace.

“This is a very dark moment in America's history. A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub, not only because he wanted to kill Americans but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation,” Trump said, referring to the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub that left at least 49 dead.

“It's a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation,” he added.

But despite the strong words in support of the LGBT community in the wake of the attack, many gay leaders Monday pointed to his continued opposition to marriage equality and his vague positions on anti-discrimination legislation. Others took issue with his tough talk on immigration reform and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The Human Rights Campaign, a leading pro-LGBT organization, accused Trump of dividing the country and attempting to pin the gay community against Muslims.

“Let's be clear: LGBTQ people are Muslims. We are also Jews and Christians, women and immigrants, people of color and those living with disabilities,” said HRC communications director Jay Brown. “We are as diverse as the fabric of our nation. And Donald Trump's attack on Muslims today is intended to divide us.

"LGBTQ people are Muslims, Jewish, black, Latino, women, immigrants. @realDonaldTrump's divisive rhetoric is wrong. Today especially so," Chad Griffin, president of HRC, wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), co-chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, raised similar objections.

“There’s an effort of Donald Trump to blame Muslims for this attack and of course there’s been a number of mass shootings in our country and they’ve been committed by Christians, Muslims and people of many different faiths,” he said Monday.

Trump mentioned LGBT rights throughout his speech, part of a broader foreign policy address in which he blasted the Obama administration. His pitch to LGBT individuals rested on his suggestion that the administration’s immigration policies, which he says are to blame for domestic terrorism, have directly compromised the safety of the gay community.

He argued that Clinton’s support for Obama’s immigration policies should provoke increased scrutiny over her record on gay rights.

“Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words? Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country — they enslave women, and murder gays,” Trump said.

Polis said that Trump's argument was thin, pointing out that tougher immigration laws and enhanced screening would not have prevented the attack in Orlando.

“Maybe he didn’t read about the background of the shooter, but the shooter was born in our country and was an American citizen,” said Polis.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment Monday about whether Trump would consider supporting LGBT marriage equality or anti-discrimination legislation in Congress.

“It’s really hard to put the word sincerity and Donald Trump in the same sentence. This is somebody who, in a day’s notice, is on every side of every issue,” said Polis. “He just doesn’t seem to have any core beliefs on any topic. You know, there’s really no way to discern what kind of unpredictable course he would take as president.”

Gregory Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans — which represents gay conservatives — praised Trump.

"Trump's speech today was historic — it marked the first time in history a Republican presidential nominee made a direct and explicit appeal to the LGBT community," Angelo said in a statement. "Only time will tell if that translates to actual votes, but in key states that will be decided by slim margins, a few extra votes from LGBT Americans could make all the difference."