Step one when listening to Donald Trump is remembering he’s a liar.
No matter what you’ve heard or whether you were caught up in the show on Sunday, Trump isn’t suddenly in favor of marriage equality. Just the opposite, he’s still got his eye on overturning the Obergefell ruling at the Supreme Court.
In Trump’s mind, even as the words are coming out of his mouth, he’s laser-focused on the shred of truth that enables him to lie to your face. He’s already identified the clause in the contract that’s going to let him escape the whole thing.
To put this latest comment in context, here’s what Trump said just before claiming same-sex marriage is “fine” by him.
“I want to ask you,” Stahl begins, “about something that’s going on right now around the country. A lot of people are afraid. They’re really afraid. African-Americans think there’s a target on their back. Muslims are terrified.”
“I think it’s built up by the press,” says Trump, with a straight face. “Frankly, they’ll take every single little incident that they can find in this country … and they’ll make into an event because that’s the way the press is.”
That's so inaccurate it's otherworldy. Muslims are not afraid because the press invented a proposed ban on them entering the country. That was Trump. The press didn’t invent Trump’s suggestion the government might need to monitor Muslim neighborhoods. That was Trump too. The press isn’t the one who suggested Muslims are constantly treasonous by not reporting known terrorists among them. All of that was Donald J. Trump.
But if you believe that, I’ve got an upside-down rainbow flag with your name on it. Trump supporters love sharing a picture of their dear leader holding a rainbow flag on which someone has scrawled in black marker “LGBTs for Trump.” Imagine for a moment if he were holding an upside-down American flag? Imagine if he’d vandalized it?
Stahl followed up Trump’s whopper of a claim about how black people and Muslims are paranoid with the now celebrated question about his treatment of LGBT people.
“One of the groups that’s expressing fear are the LGBTQ group. You—“
Sensing danger, Trump immediately interrupted her.
“And yet I mentioned them at the Republican National Convention,” he feints. “Everybody said, ‘That was so great.’ I have been, you know, I’ve been — a supporter.”
Trump knows that’s a stretch. What he said at the convention is he opposes anyone murdering us, like the killer at Pulse. I guess I’m supposed to be grateful?
Meanwhile, he’s pledged to overturn all of President Obama’s executive orders, including one that makes it illegal for federal contractors such as ExxonMobil to discriminate against LGBT people in hiring. He’s also announced he might reinstate the ban on transgender people serving in the military, and he wants to let states decide whether transgender people ought to be allowed to use the bathroom appropriate for their gender identity.
To her credit, Stahl tried to narrow in on the big topic Trump was trying to avoid.
“Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality,” she says. Then she asked Trump a very straightforward question that he never answered: “Do you support marriage equality?”
“It’s irrelevant,” he says, “because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.”
Speaking for myself, as a man married to another man, it’s not irrelevant to me. I had to quit my job and move from my home in Florida because it was illegal at the time to get married there. I looked for jobs only in states where I could get married and start a family. But let’s put all that aside for a moment.
Trump has said before that he personally opposes marriage equality. Plus he pledged during the campaign to pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which is much like an Indiana-style Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the federal government. That’s the law that got his vice president, Mike Pence, in so much trouble as governor because it’s actually a “license to discriminate” against same-sex couples so long as you’re a business owner who believes Jesus was a bigot.
So far in our review of the 60 Minutes interview, Trump is doing a bang-up job at lying. But that darned Stahl just won’t quit.
“So even if you appoint a judge that—“
Again, Trump senses danger and cuts her off. He goes into almost a coma of laissez-faire pronouncements. His demeanor says, there's nothing to see here, though we ought to know better.
“It’s done. It — you have — these cases have gone to the Supreme Court,” he says. “They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.”
Then come the headlines. It doesn't matter that Trump has said virtually this exact thing during the campaign. The Guardian reports erroneously on Sunday that “Trump backs same-sex marriage but not abortion under Supreme Court threat.”
In August of 2015, Trump told The Hollywood Reporter that “anybody that's making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it.” Then five months later, when he needed to shore up support with the evangelicals, Trump told told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he would appoint justices who oppose marriage equality. His campaign twice released lists of potential nominees, many with sterling records of homophobia. He promised during a nationally televised debate that they would emulate Antonin Scalia. Social conservatives were quite soothed.
The real takeaway in this interview is that the president-elect is more scared of LGBT people than he is of social conservatives. He knows, and he’s always known, that we are the most organized, the most capable of turning back his agenda. We go after the businesses — like his — that fund discrimination. We don’t let anyone off the hook who aligns with bigots. We will never stop protesting until we get full equality, because equality isn’t negotiable and because we’re just huge pains in the ass.
And that in itself is reason to keep right on protesting, because Trump understands it is a threat to his hegemony, that he needs to keep the positive spirit of the LGBT movement contained before it spreads.
Step two when listening to Donald Trump is remembering he needs to divide us. Only then can he keep conquering. Trump is counting on our innate, human instinct for me-first. So he’s making sounds that might lull you into a state of complacency.
So long as Trump can keep LGBT people on the sidelines, he’s feeling pretty confident about deporting our neighbors, or promoting “law and order” as a way of dealing with Black Lives Matter. On Sunday, he told women that states ought to be able to outlaw abortion. Trump said he wouldn’t necessarily pass a law to make that happen. Instead, his nominees to the Supreme Court would do the dirty work.
“I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life,” he says. Real simple, right?
“Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?” clarifies Stahl.
“No, it’ll go back to the states.” Stahl is at first perplexed, so Trump elaborates. “Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.”
And here is where Trump just explained the Republican plan for undoing marriage equality, the one that he will back whenever he needs those social conservatives. It’s always been the same plan. He gave the plan to us during the campaign, if you were listening carefully.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum spilled the beans on the strategy during a Rachel Maddow interview, explaining all they have to do is swap one liberal on the Supreme Court with a conservative, then pass some outrageous law that will inevitably be challenged by a gay couple in the court system. Voila! No more marriage equality.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has ideas; in fact, he’s filed bills in Congress that would chip away at marriage equality several times. He’d like states to opt not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. He'd also like to invalidate your marriage if you didn't get a license in the state where you live.
That’s just one socially conservative lawmaker in a Republican-controlled Congress. There are others.
Next time, ask Trump whether he’d veto any law that curtails marriage equality or whether his Supreme Court justices will oppose same-sex marriage, I’m guessing he’d interrupt you and claim the question is “irrelevant.” There was also that time Trump repeatedly ordered a reporter who tried to ask a question about marriage equality to "sit down." Maybe the media will sit down, but we won't.