Donald Trump is pinning his hopes for the presidency on generating high enthusiasm and turnout among conservative white evangelicals, who make up a big part of the Republican Party base and who have been intensely opposed to every advance in legal equality for LGBT Americans. But there’s a group of conservative gays doggedly trying to convince LGBT people that the religious right-embracing Trump would be a better president for LGBT people than Hillary Clinton. It’s absurd, but it’s an absurd election.
Let’s review how Trump has courted members of the religious right: He allowed them to write discrimination into the Republican Party platform; he picked the solidly antigay Mike Pence as his running mate; he has promised to fill the Supreme Court with justices in the mold of the equality-despising Antonin Scalia; and he has promised to make conservative churches more politically powerful by eliminating legal restrictions that prevent churches, like other tax-exempt nonprofits, from engaging in direct electoral work. None of those things are remotely good for LGBT Americans.
Of course, gay Republicans are used to denying or at least making peace with the realities of their party. This week the Log Cabin Republicans celebrated their annual Spirit of Lincoln gathering with an address by Newt Gingrich, whose theme in recent years has been “Rediscovering God in America.” A few years back, Gingrich funneled $125,000 to the campaign to unseat Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality, and his own presidential campaign featured attacks on “gay and secular fascism” and pledges to support a constitutional ban on same-sex couples getting married. He defended anti-equality language in this year’s GOP platform, saying, “It’s a fact that we are the socially conservative party.”
So what is the rationale for Trump’s gay apologists? At the surreal Gays for Trump party during the Republican National Convention, the focus was on Muslims as the real threat to gay people. The party, which featured speakers from the racist American alt-right and the anti-Muslim European far right, was attended by white nationalist leaders.
The anti-Muslim argument was also heard this week from a self-identified lesbian whose online video rant has been promoted by Matt Drudge and others in the right-wing media. In the video, “DeplorableCorgiGirl,” a.k.a. @DebraMax, attacks Hillary Clinton’s gay campaign manager, Robby Mook, calling him “a disgrace” for working for “that bitch.” She says Clinton “took money from these countries, from these countries that would take him and his friends or his lover or his partner and throw them off a building and kill them.” She says Mook is too young to remember “the time of AIDS” and adds, “I never thought in my life I would see another time that I would fear for me and my other gay friends,” referring to the shooting in Orlando. “How disgraceful that you are out there in the public supporting somebody that is going to come here and will kill you for being a gay man,” she says.
@DebraMax is not the first to use the massacre at an Orlando gay Pulse nightclub to try to push LGBT people to vote for the overtly anti-Muslim Trump. That’s the message from Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos and from Trump himself. It’s the same message Gingrich delivered at the Log Cabin Republicans party.
But to buy their message you have to deny reality in multiple ways.
First, you have to pretend that the Obama administration and by extension former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are either ideologically aligned with or merely soft on, terrorist groups like ISIS. In the real world, the U.S. and its allies have been steadily eroding the territory controlled by ISIS, and Clinton has made it clear she shares the goal of working in partnership with countries in the region to try to destroy the group. Trump’s bluster and his claims to have a secret plan that will easily wipe out the group in no time at all are, literally, unbelievable.
Here’s the reality: While Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, the Obama administration became one of the strongest proponents of LGBT human rights around the world. Struggling LGBT people and their allies in hostile countries are still inspired and encouraged by Clinton’s history-making declaration on Human Rights Day in 2011 that “gay rights are human rights.” At last year’s World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, African antigay activists urged Americans to put an end to U.S. advocacy for gay rights globally by not electing Clinton.
This year, the U.S. joined other equality-supporting countries to make history by voting to install an independent expert at the United Nations who will investigate violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. And who has fiercely opposed that groundbreaking measure? The world’s most oppressive regimes and the American religious right groups that have allied with them.
Yes, the Austin Ruse who was recently named to Donald Trump’s Catholic advisory group is the same Austin Ruse who is teaming up with freedom-crushing countries — Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and many more — to try to prevent any international recognition or protection for the rights of LGBT people and their families. That is disgraceful.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who hosted Trump and Pence at the recent Values Voter Summit, defended Uganda’s notorious "Kill the Gays" bill as an effort to “uphold moral conduct.” Trump’s religious right supporters share his affection for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin; they’re so enamored of Putin’s antigay policies that they ignore his other brutally antidemocratic measures. And while they love to posture as victims of supposed religious persecution at the hands of the LGBT movement in the U.S., they didn’t raise a fuss when Putin signed a law that actually and dramatically restricts the religious freedom of those outside the Russian Orthodox Church, including evangelicals. That is disgraceful.
And as for @DebraMax’s appeal to the “time of AIDS,” I am old enough to remember what it was like to come out in the midst of an epidemic, with young people dying every day, and to remember what it took for gay people and their friends to fight fear, bigotry, and bureaucratic resistance. And who was fighting us back then? The same religious right leaders who are now joined in a mutual admiration embrace with Donald Trump.
Gary Bauer, for example, said this month that Donald Trump could be conservative Christians’ last chance to elect a president who will promote their agenda. When Bauer was working in the Reagan White House in 1987, he fought tooth and nail to prevent the appointment of a “known homosexual” to the nation’s first AIDS commission, warning that would “give homosexuality a stamp of approval.” Then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop complained that Bauer interfered with his efforts to get a report on AIDS to President Reagan, saying, “He kept me from the cabinet and he set up a wall of enmity between me and most of the people that surrounded Reagan because he believed that anybody who had AIDS ought to die with it. That was God’s punishment for them.” That is disgraceful.
Godspeed, Robby Mook.
PETER MONTGOMERY is a senior fellow with People for the American Way.