Unlike many in the pool of GOP presidential possibilities in the 2016 election, Donald Trump could rightly boast a long history of advocacy and respect for the LGBTQ community harkening back to his efforts in the ’80s and ’90s to promote AIDS awareness.
Pin it to his time spent in the more progressive climate of Manhattan or his work across the globe, in which he unquestionably become familiar with a more diverse selection of people than your average U.S. politician. Whatever the cause, Trump’s public stances on the issues impacting the LGBTQ community gave some solace to people who might, due to the woeful history of negative views espoused by the GOP rank and file, distrust a Republican politician. This wasn’t lost on Trump, and his administration touted his inclusive nature in a statement:
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election. The president is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”
Despite all this, though, some are losing faith that Trump will be able to live up to both his promises and his past gloating that he would be a better friend to the LGBTQ community than Hillary Clinton would have been. This likely comes down to the company he keeps and one key position he has taken.
President Trump’s Inner Circle And Early Actions
Vice President Mike Pence may not be in the driver’s seat, but his influence over Trump and caustic history with LGBTQ issues are seen as a dark cloud hanging over Trump’s stated desires to be a friend to the community.
As Indiana governor, Pence ignited a firestorm in 2015 when he signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law — a bill that allows businesses and other ventures to say “no thanks” to LGBTQ customers while using their religious beliefs as legally permissible justification. It doesn’t stop there, as Time points out that Pence’s record is filled with black marks against the LGBTQ community. If Pence is really poised to be the most powerful vice president in U.S. history, it stands to reason that he may have a hand in shaping Trump policies that will impact the LGBTQ community.
As of now, rumors that Pence might push a federal version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act haven’t yet proven true, but many fear this will change as time goes by, and they are worry that rights pertaining to marriage, adoption, and equal opportunity could also be targeted.
Trump tried to quell these fears early on in an interview with 60 Minutes, when he said that same-sex marriage is safe because it is settled law.
Pence isn’t the only member of the Trump administration with anti-LGBTQ ties, though, and despite Trump’s reassuring words about his own views and intentions, those influences are making progress. In fact, he has already revoked a landmark protection for transgender students.