President Trump played to a friendly crowd Thursday at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, solidifying ties to evangelical voters who were instrumental in his election but also alienating gays that he has strived to embrace.
The president highlighted accomplishments for which the religious leaders had clamored, including an executive order that allows churches and other religious organizations to become more politically active.
“You didn’t let me down, and I will never, ever let you down. You know that,” he said to applause at the coalition’s Road to Majority Conference at a Washington hotel.
Mr. Trump vowed to keep fighting to protect religious liberty, expand the role of religion in public discourse and make schools more welcoming to religion.
“Faith inspires us to be better, to be stronger, to be more caring and giving, and more determined to act in selfless and courageous defense of what is good and what is right,” he said. “It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion.”
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the president’s speech inspired him to redouble his efforts to energize pro-life voters in the 2018 elections.
“I could not help but think that there are so many in the church who do not yet realize what a blessing this president is for the church,” he said.
Gay rights leaders, however, said that Mr. Trump had let them down.
The president’s appearance at the conference, which was packed with anti-gay crusaders, coincided with criticism that he has yet to recognize June 2017 as Pride Month despite celebrations this month in cities and states across the country to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York that are considered the birth of the modern LGBT movement.
Mr. Trump has already proclaimed June as National Homeownership Month, National Ocean Month, African-American Music Appreciation Month and National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
The White House did not respond to questions about not officially recognizing Pride Month.
“It’s shameful that the president of the United States has failed to recognize such a historically significant time for the LGBT community,” said David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network. “Millions of people across the country recognize and celebrate June as LGBT Pride Month, which is important not only to LGBT Americans, but to any American who believes in civil and human rights for all.”
Mr. Trump’s speech came two days before the “Pride Parade” in Washington, part of a weekend of gay pride events in the city. The New York parade is at the end of the month.
The speech also was delivered less than a week before the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed at the gay nightspot. The attack by a Muslim who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State was the deadliest mass shooting, the worst domestic terror attack and the deadliest anti-gay violence in U.S. history.
In the wake of the shooting, Mr. Trump made a direct appeal to gay voters, based in part on his tough line against radical Islamic terrorists, who advocated death for homosexuals.
However, gay leaders have actively opposed his presidency. The gay rights group Human Rights Campaign declared June as #UniteResistEnlist Month in opposition to the Trump administration.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson released a statement recognizing Pride Month. The statement affirmed the State Department’s “solidarity with the human rights defenders and civil society organizations working around the world to uphold the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons to live with dignity and freedom.”
The Human Rights Campaign said the statement “stands in stark contrast to the silence from the White House.”