Donald Trump is being accused of flip-flopping on his stance on House Bill 2, the controversial law that forces transgender people in North Carolina to use public restrooms (in government buildings) that do not correspond with their gender identity.
Trump appeared at a rally in Raleigh on Tuesday, where he spoke with The News and Observer about HB 2, which was forced through the state legislature in an emergency session March 23. “I’m going with the state,” Trump said. “The state, they know what’s going on, they see what’s happening and generally speaking I’m with the state on things like this. I’ve spoken with your governor, I’ve spoken with a lot of people and I’m going with the state.”
These statements are being called a complete reversal from his earlier views on the law. After HB 2 was condemned by more than 200 major companies, including Apple, Microsoft, and Google, Trump noted that the state is “paying a big price.” Trump advised other states not to make the same mistakes.
“Leave it the way it is,” he told Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today show. “North Carolina, what they’re going through, with all of the business and all of the strife — and that’s on both sides — you leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment they’re taking.”
The billionaire CEO further claimed that Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist who has recently transitioned in the public eye, would be welcome to use the women's restroom at Trump Tower. And Jenner actually did just that in a video she posted on social media.
Trump was applauded for his moderate stance on LGBT issues, with former GOProud president Chris Barron calling the presumptive Republican presidential pick “the most pro-gay Republican nominee ever.” The CEO has also claimed that he would be a champion for LGBT equality if elected to office, reiterating that point at Tuesday’s rally.
“I am better for the gay community,” he said. “I am better for women than Hillary will be on her best day.”
That comment was similar to his “ask the gays” gaffe in June, when he asked LGBT people to compare his record on equality with Clinton’s. The appraisal on Twitter was not kind.
But in reality, he’s been backtracking since his initial statements on HB 2 in April. Shortly after speaking out against the law, Trump amended his condemnation in an interview with ABC, in which he claimed that he would “leave it up to the states” to decide what’s best for transgender people.
“Well, I believe it should be states’ rights, and I think the state should make the decision,” Trump said.
In his new comments, Trump is still taking a states rights approach, but now he's explicitly speaking up about his support for North Carolina passing HB 2, instead of appearing to call it a mistake.
According to Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality North Carolina, Trump is flip-flopping on LGBT rights and would be dangerous for the LGBT community. “Over and over, he has shown himself to be unqualified as a presidential candidate, and no friend to gay and transgender people,” he said in a statement. “We must resoundingly reject his ill-informed discrimination in November.”
JoDee Winterhof, who serves as the senior vice president for policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said that we shouldn’t underestimate Trump’s recent support of HB 2.
“Let’s be clear, Donald Trump just gave one of the nation’s worst laws for LGBTQ people a full-throated endorsement,” Winterhof stated in a press release. “By buddying up with Gov. Pat McCrory on the deeply discriminatory HB 2, Donald Trump is unabashedly embracing a dangerous law that takes away the civil rights of LGBTQ people and has cost North Carolina not only its reputation but millions of dollars in economic losses.”
Trump’s about-face on LGBT rights, though, may just be the start.
According to reports, he’s considering Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for the vice presidential spot on his campaign ticket. Last year, Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which made it legal for businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That law was “fixed” after Indiana faced widespread boycotts in response to the bill’s passage, which reportedly cost the state $60 million in potential revenue.
“The Republican Party has a deep bench of qualified vice-presidential candidates,” former Trump adviser Michael Caputo told The Indianapolis Star. “Some of them ring certain bells, and others ring other bells. I think Mike Pence rings the most bells of all.”