Trump’s Gay Backers No Longer See Him as the Great Straight Hope

The following article by Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein was posted on the Daily Beast website October 12, 2017:

The president pledged to be a champion of the gay community. Few believed him. Now, even those who did express disappointment.

Credit: Daily Beast

During his run for office, Donald Trump positioned himself as a champion of gay rights, someone who would bring the Republican Party into modernity on an increasingly settled civil rights cause. But well into his first year in the White House, those who hoped for the best have been disappointed and those who assumed the worst say their fears are realized.

The Trump administration’s record on LGBT issues has been defined by retrenchment, both sides concede. Many of the advances made under the Obama administration have disappeared, replaced by policies and directives that could have been written by an anachronistic social conservative instead of the cosmopolitan New York businessman occupying the Oval Office.

“I think, personally, the president has met my expectations,” said Chris Barron, a longtime conservative gay-rights activist. “My concern has always been what happens at the department and agency levels. And I definitely have concerns with what is going on at Department of Justice. The attorney general [Jeff Sessions] has a very different position on LGBT issues than the president does. But his job is to carry forward the president’s agendaand not push his own… I’m certainly concerned he is [pushing his own].”

Among gay-rights advocates, few had higher hopes for this White House than Barron. He was largely responsible for arranging for Trump to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011—an event credited with helping bring the reality TV star into the GOP mainstream. And though the activist occasionally soured on Trump’s campaign, Barron also launched an LGBTers for Trump group and championed the argument that the Republican nominee would be inherently better for the community than Hillary Clinton. After the election, Barron wrote that Trump would be an ally, friend, and advocate.

Instead, Barron and others are alarmed at the direction the administration is taking. Trump is responsible for some of it, having signed a directive banning the recruitment of transgender troops. But much of it has originated from his agencies. The Justice Department has changed its position on whether sexual orientation is covered under the Civil Rights Act, withdrawn federal protections for transgender kids in schools, and said it will not prosecute organizations who cite religious objections when declining to serve gay customers.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly withdrew a 2014 rule that would have required longterm-care facilities to recognize same-sex marriages when deciding visitation rights and decision-making responsibilities (PDF). The agency argued that the legalization of same-sex marriages by the Supreme Court made the ruling moot, but advocates warned that it would open the doors to discrimination. This week, the National Park Service abruptly decided to withdraw its sponsorship of New York’s pride flag, which had been dedicated at the iconic Stonewall National Monument.

“Trump’s supporters like to say, ‘It’s not what he says, it’s what he does that matters.’ That’s definitely the case when it comes to issues affecting LGBT Americans,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, who started the now-defunct conservative gay rights group GOProud along with Barron. “I never thought that Donald Trump was an anti-gay homophobe. I certainly didn’t think that when I met him back in 2011. But we’ve all learned a lot about who he really is since then. With his political pandering and posturing to endear himself to the intolerant wing of the GOP over the last few years, it doesn’t surprise me that this administration will go down as the most anti-LGBT in history.”

View the post here.