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Trump speaks to anti-LGBT crowd

Written by on June 27, 2019

The date of June 26 is remembered with reverence in the LGBT community because it marks the anniversary of a trio of major LGBT rights decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, including the 2015 ruling for marriage equality nationwide.

This year, the date marks the fourth anniversary of the Obergefell decision, the sixth anniversary of decisions against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, and the 16th anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state sodomy laws.

But President Trump on this day instead talked about his efforts to protect “religious freedom,” a term often used among conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination, at the “Road to Majority” conference hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition just hours before he’d depart for Japan for the G20 summit.

“When I asked for your support in 2016, Americans of faith were under assault,” Trump said. “But the shameful attempt to suppress religious believers ended the day I took the oath of office.”

Instead of rulings for LGBT rights, Trump brought up two Supreme Court decisions that played favorably with his audience.

“Exactly one year ago today in a five-to-four decision,” Trump said, the Supreme Court “upheld the First Amendment rights” of the National Institute of Family & Life. The case involved a pregnancy center that sought to refuse to tell patients about abortion options despite a California law compelling them to do so.

Trump also noted just last week, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 the peace cross should be allowed to stand on public land “in a beautiful memorial in Maryland, which honors our heroes of World War One in the form of a cross.”

“It’s so integral and it takes up such an important place in that whole state and they wanted to rip it down,” Trump added.

Trump, in part, took credit for those decisions, asserting he’d soon nominate his 145 judicial nominees “who will interpret the Constitution” as written and touting his picks of U.S. Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump made no mention of the four-year anniversary of the Obergefell decision, or the milestones of any of the other LGBT rights cases coming before the court, during the entire day as LGBT rights supporters took the occasion to remember pioneers like the late Edith Windsor, the “mother of marriage equality” who filed the lawsuit against DOMA.

Favorable words on marriage equality would likely not fare well with the Faith & Freedom Coalition, whose founder, Ralph Reed, once compared marriage equality to the 1857 Dred Scott decision that held slaves were property and cannot sue the state.

“Only six of them, six out of those 17, six out of 50 states, had done it by referendum or by state legislature,” Reed said in 2014. “In every other case, it was imposed by courts. Just like the courts had to impose Dred Scott. Because they couldn’t do it in the country because the country didn’t agree with it. The country, by the way, doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage.”

According to Trump aides, Trump supports same-sex marriage and has supported it since before he entered the office. Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, said as much recently in a quote in a Washington Post article on Trump’s anti-LGBT record.

“President Donald Trump is the first U.S. president to favor same-sex marriage when he was sworn in, absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind, and supports the equal treatment of all,” Deere was quoted as saying.

After Trump recognized Pride month in a recent tweet, Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House he came into office “to start as president for approving of gay marriage” and “that’s something that he should be lauded for in history.”

(That’s likely a reference to a comment he made on “60 Minutes” in 2016 when Trump told Leslie Stahl he’s “fine” with same-sex marriage and considers the issue “settled” as a legal matter.)

But the White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether Trump had any thoughts on the fourth anniversary of the Obergefell decision. The Blade tried to get a question in with Trump during his brief gaggle on the South Lawn before he left for Japan but was ignored.

If Trump supports same-sex marriage, he has a funny way of showing it. His administration has built an anti-LGBT record that includes policies such as the transgender military ban, anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of religious freedom, opposition to the Equality Act and refusal to accept LGBT people as covered under current federal civil rights law.

Evan Wolfson, who founded and led Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples, told the Blade weeks ago he doesn’t accept Trump’s support for same-sex marriage based on that record.

“I’ve always said that much more important than what politicians think is what they do,” Wolfson said. “Actions speak louder than words and that’s particularly true with a liar such as Trump, whose words are worth nothing. Whatever occasional feelings of indifference or support he may periodically have or express, he has appointed judges and officials attacking the couples and trying to roll back protections he and another liar, Kellyanne Conway, today want credit for being fine with.”

But Trump rattled off a few of these anti-LGBT actions before the Faith & Freedom Coalition crowd, who hailed him during his speech and at one point chanted, “Four more years! Four more years!”

“My administration has taken historic action to protect religious liberty,” Trump said. “We’re protecting the conscience rights of doctors and nurses and teachers and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. We’re with them.”

That could be a reference to Trump’s executive order allowing groups like Little Sisters of the Poor to get out of the contraception mandate under Obamacare, as well as a recent right of refusal rule from HHS permitting medical practitioners to refuse to perform procedures with which they have religious objections, such as abortion or gender reassignment surgery.

“We’re preserving our country vital’s tradition of faith-based adoption,” Trump said. (The Department of Health & Human Services gave a waiver to the taxpayer-funded Miracle Hill Ministries to engage in discrimination in family placement, and Axios reports the Trump administration seeks to rescind the Obama-era rule barring anti-gay discrimination among recipients of federal funds altogether.)

Reminding his audience “this could all change very quickly” and “the one person in this office can change that very quickly,” Trump urged them to stick with him as he emphasized the importance — or unimportance — of the 2020 election in a word salad.

“The election coming up is in certain ways maybe is going to be as important, I can’t say more important, but as important as the election of 2016,” Trump said. “In certain ways, it could be more important.”

Charlotte Clymer, a transgender advocate, and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign said in response to Trump’s speech “this White House has, in myriad ways, made our society more dangerous and unwelcome for LGBTQ people.”

“It is hardly surprising that Trump would pick the day of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage four years ago and the week of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots launching the modern LGBTQ rights movement to lend credibility to an anti-LGBTQ group whose founder compared the Supreme Court’s ruinous decision in the Dred Scott case to the landmark ruling for marriage equality,” Clymer said. “Trump and Pence have made plain how they feel about LGBTQ people.”

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