CLEVELAND ― Donald Trump promised to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals Thursday night in his prime-time convention speech, and he said he was heartened to hear that the crowd supported him in that fight.
Only weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted the LGBT community. No good. And we’re going to stop it.
As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me. And I have to say as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.
It’s notable that Trump used the full LGBTQ acronym, acknowledging those who identify as queer and/or questioning. It’s not something heard much at a Republican convention, where the word “homosexual” is still occasionally used.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel also spoke Thursday night, becoming the first openly gay person to address a GOP convention and address his sexual orientation.
Despite these overtures to a constituency not usually supportive of the Republican Party, this year’s GOP platform is one of the most anti-LGBT ever.
It advocates going back to legally defining marriage as between one man and one woman. It supports adoption agencies that refuse to serve same-sex couples; affirms so-called conversion therapy, a discredited practice of trying to turn gay people into straight people; calls for banning transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity and endorses controversial legislation that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex married couples in the name of religious freedom.
And Trump chose as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who has made his name by pushing a socially conservative agenda that included going after LGBT equality.
Last year, Pence waged a high-profile fight for “religious freedom,” signing a law that could have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. After intense national backlash that cost his state economically ― and embarrassed many members of his party ― Pence backed down and signed a revised version of the law.
Rachel Hoff, a GOP delegate from the District of Columbia and the first openly gay member of the platform committee, welcomed what Trump said in his speech and said she hopes to see more.
“All of that rhetoric is great ... [and it’s] really significant that he gave Mr. Thiel this platform, if you will,” Hoff said. “But again, what happens here is rhetoric, and it needs to be backed up with real leadership on LGBT issues.”
Trump himself opposes marriage equality. He initially came out in favor of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity rather than the gender assigned to them at birth, but he has since said he supports North Carolina’s law barring them from doing so.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign ― which has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton ― tweeted Thursday night that he wasn’t sold by Trump’s speech:
A new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that only 37 percent of Republican respondents would like to see a president who opposes gay marriage. Forty-four percent don’t care, and 13 percent would actually prefer to see their party’s stance on the issue shift.