Like a man embracing his bride while coyly winking over his shoulder at one of his wedding party guests, Donald Trump used the Republican National Convention to stir passion among the party base while lightly romancing LGBT people. The flirtation included Trump's (awkward) reference to "LGBTQ people" in his acceptance speech -- a first for a Republican presidential candidate. Earlier, a Trump supporter said he was "proud to be gay" in a prime-time speech. That's also a first for a Republican convention.
Could it be that The Donald has softened his --and his party's -- notorious and discriminatory policy positions regarding LGBT people? It seems hard to believe. I still remember watching Pat Buchanan's prime-time speech at the Republican convention, just six election cycles ago, when he bellowed "There is a culture war going on in our country for the soul of America" while people in the audience thundered their approval and waved signs that read "Family Rights Forever, Gay Rights Never."
Now we have the Republican nominee going so far as to say in his acceptance speech that he would "protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology." He even thanked those who applauded that line. And it was just a few months ago that Trump was thanked by Caitlyn Jenner for telling NBC's Matt Lauer that people should be able to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable using.
So whatever you may think of Trump's other policy positions -- and there certainly is a lot to chew on in that regard -- is he a candidate we can count on to advance equal rights and protections for LGBT people? Hardly. In fact, I have grave fears about what a Trump presidency would mean specifically for our community -- besides what it would mean for our environment, for women, for Latinos, for black lives, for immigrants, for foreign relations, and so much more.
Let's start with Trump's convention speech pledge to protect LGBTQ people from violent and oppressive foreign ideologies. Here in the U.S., the threat specifically to LGBT people from foreign ideologies ranks low, somewhere near the threat to us from Chick-fil-A. Trump referenced the horrific murder of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando before claiming to protect us, simply as a means to pit LGBT people against Muslims while promoting support for his unconstitutional ban on Muslim immigrants.
Except the Orlando shooter wasn't an immigrant. He was a New Yorker of Muslim faith who was found by the CIA to have no links to ISIS and who was described by his wife as "mentally unstable and mentally ill." In other words, he's someone who shouldn't have had access to the arsenal of weapons he used to conduct the worst mass shooting in the history of our country. But Trump, who's proudly endorsed by the National Rifle Association, doesn't believe in any restrictions on the constitutional right to gun ownership.
The greatest threat to our well-being isn't from hateful foreign ideologies. It's from hateful domestic ideologies like those in the platform of the party that nominated Trump, ideologies promoted by political, religious, and community leaders who foster a culture that dehumanizes LGBT people and devalues our lives. A culture that causes parents to abandon their LGBT children, that convinces LGBT youth death is preferable to living, and that leads to brutal hate crimes against us. A culture that last year resulted in the murder of 22 transgender women.
The head of the Log Cabin Republicans said this year's GOP platform is "the most anti-LGBT platform" in the history of the party (and that says something). It's a policy paper that supports the repeal of our freedom to marry, opposes the adoption of children by same-sex couples, demeans LGBT parents by implying our kids are more likely to abuse drugs and turn to crime, calls for banning transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity, and affirms dangerous and discredited conversion "therapy" to change sexual orientation.
This brings me to Trump's choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, because Pence is the human embodiment of that anti-LGBT platform.
Political pundits often say a presidential candidate's choice of running mate is one of the most important decisions a candidate will make and a reflection of the would-be president's judgment. But since vice presidents typically have little influence over policy (Biden and Cheney are recent exceptions to this rule), should Pence's background and experience matter that much? In this case, it may matter more than the selection of any other vice president.
Before the job was offered to Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected an offer to not only be Trump's running mate, but also to become "the most powerful vice president" in the history of our country by managing foreign and domestic policy (it's unclear what that would leave for Trump). Pence likely received the same offer. That should frighten LGBT people and all who believe in the promise of a free and equal nation.
Pence's long history of opposing equal rights for LGBT people includes signing Indiana's so-called religious liberty bill last year to legalize wide-scale discrimination against LGBT people. It was one of the most draconian, anti-LGBT pieces of legislation in the history of our country, enabling just about any business owner to refuse service to LGBT people. Pence is also a forceful opponent of marriage equality and a strong advocate of conversion therapy, which is outlawed in several states, and he even proposed to fund it with taxpayer dollars.
But if Trump is elected president, the greatest threat to LGBT people won't come just from the executive branch of our government; it will come from the judicial. That's because Trump has vowed to fill openings on the U.S. Supreme Court with people just like the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia, who was perhaps the most anti-LGBT Justice to ever serve on the court, opposed marriage equality and anti-discrimination law, supported sodomy laws, and famously compared gay men and lesbians to murderers, child abusers, pedophiles, and people who have sex with -- and beat -- animals.
There's one opening on the Supreme Court now, and during the next president's term there are likely to be a few others. Imagine what the future of the LGBT movement will be like with three Scalias on the court. Decades of progress could be reversed.
But hey, at least Trump supports the right of people to use the bathroom of their choice, as he said on the Today show, right? No. Under a little pressure from Ted Cruz during the primary, the guy who promises to be the strongest president in the history of our country quickly flipped, saying that states should have the right to punish someone who uses a bathroom that doesn't correspond with their birth gender.
So this November, please don't be fooled by a candidate who's whispering sweet nothings in your ears and batting his eyelashes, because he's also vowing to hurt you or -- if you're an LGBT ally -- hurt those you love and care about. And please vote.
LORRI L. JEAN is the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.