President Trump has been criticized during the past two years for not recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month. As a candidate, Trump made pledges to the LGBT community that no other Republican nominee had made — giving some people hope that he’d be more progressive on gay rights issues than most conservative leaders.
In his Republican nomination acceptance speech, Trump said:
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
But since entering the White House, Trump has rolled back multiple protections for the gay community that some say bring into question the sincerity of his tweet on Friday.
“As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”
Even though Trump finally acknowledged Pride month, responses from the LGBT community were not as celebratory.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the country’s largest gay rights organizations, was clearly disgusted by the president’s comments, taking to social media to tweet:
“You can’t celebrate Pride and constantly undermine our rights — including attacking
#TransHealth, discharging #TransTroops, refusing to protect LGBTQ youth, and cozying up to dictators who brutalize & marginalize LGBTQ people. This is gross hypocrisy, with an emphasis on gross.”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, an organization that investigates and reports on human rights abuses around the world, pointed to what he deems inconsistencies in the president’s approach to LGBT people.
“Trump plans a global push to decriminalize homosexuality,” he said on Twitter. “Great, but that’s only step one. Step two is fighting discrimination against LGBT people, but Trump instead is promoting it.”
And Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, responded by drawing attention to the fact that despite legislation banning discrimination against the LGBT community passing in the House, lawmakers in the Senate have not been given the chance to vote on it.
His response to Trump: “Nice Tweet. Now, how about telling Mitch McConnell to bring up the Equality Act?”
Trump supporters dismissed his critics as liberals unwilling to give Trump credit for anything — including issues that matter greatly to the left. But that attack fails to acknowledge the fact that not only has Trump not continued the Obama administration’s efforts to expand the rights of LGBT people, but has rolled back many rights that LGBT Americans have had.
Before entering the White House, Trump made comments appearing to affirm same-sex marriage. But his approach to LGBT issues since becoming president is largely thought to be influenced by the conservative white evangelicals who helped secure his election and that of Vice President Pence, an evangelical Christian who made national headlines as Indiana’s governor for his opposition to laws that would expand gay rights.
Shortly after Trump was sworn in as president, links to websites highlighting the rights that LGBT Americans have were removed from the White House website and other government websites. Trump later took to Twitter to announce a ban that would block transgender people from serving in the military. His administration also took steps to roll back regulations from the Obama administration to protect transgender medical patients and health insurance consumers. And the president has sought to remove questions about sexual identity from the 2020 Census, thus minimizing, if not erasing, LGBT people from official counts. Trump also ordered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind nondiscrimination protections for transgender students in U.S. schools.
For those advocating for LGBT rights, it is hard to believe a tweet from Trump that gay Americans should be celebrated, when so many of his actions appear aimed at limiting their freedoms. Some supporters of Trump may view his support for decriminalizing homosexuality globally as inclusive, but for those who have been in the fight for gay rights for a decade, urging countries to stop treating gay people as criminals is the bare minimum. Trump probably knows that it is nearly impossible to win the support of both conservative white Christians and the LGBT community — and he appears to have made his choice. But for gay Americans whose political concerns go beyond the 2020 election, the president’s handling of LGBT rights will have implications long after he leaves the White House, be it 2020 or later.