- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2019

President Trump is responsible for the most anti-LGBTQ administration in modern history, according to the Center for American Progress’ Winnie Stachelberg, whose assertion astounds openly gay conservative activist Charles Moran.

“Are you kidding me?” said Mr. Moran, national spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans. “When [President] Bill Clinton signed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the Defense of Marriage Act? When Donald Trump is the first president ever elected who supports marriage equality? Are you kidding?”

In fact, he said, Mr. Trump is “arguably the most pro-gay Republican, the most pro-gay president ever elected to office,” providing the parameters on the chasm between the left and the right when it comes to the president’s record on LGBTQ issues.

That tension erupted last week after the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Mr. Trump’s reelection, touching off a liberal outcry. Jon Cooper, chair of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, called the move “despicable,” and Log Cabin board member Jennifer Horn resigned Monday in protest.

“He doesn’t care if he has to divide on racial lines, on ethnic lines, on education lines. He will divide and damage and destroy this country in any manner he thinks he needs to, to advance his own political power,” Ms. Horn said on MSNBC. She said she did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2016.

Meanwhile, the president told reporters Tuesday at the White House that he was “very honored” to receive the Log Cabin endorsement. He touted his support from prominent gay conservatives such as billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.

“Some of my biggest supporters are of that community, and I talk to them a lot about it,” Mr. Trump said. “I think I’ve done really very well with that community. As you know, Peter Thiel and so many others, they’re with me all the way, and they like the job I’m doing. And I just got a big endorsement from the Log Cabin group.”

Gay conservatives based their support on more than the “R” after Mr. Trump’s name. Log Cabin did not endorse Mr. Trump in 2016 but did so this year after what Mr. Moran described as near-unanimous support from the group’s 50 chapters.

The group cited the administration’s goal of ending the nation’s HIV/AIDS epidemic in 10 years, which Mr. Trump announced during his State of the Union address in February, and his initiative to decriminalize homosexuality globally, led by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay. Mr. Trump has installed a second openly gay diplomat, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry.

Mr. Trump has nominated two openly LGBTQ people for the federal bench. One of them, Mary M. Rowland, was confirmed this month for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The second, Patrick J. Bumatay, has a nomination pending before the Senate.

Liberal LGBTQ advocates argue that those judiciary bright spots are outweighed by nominees deemed anti-gay, such as U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, a former general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, who served as deputy general counsel of the First Liberty Institute.

Most of the outrage, however, has been directed at the administration’s push to reverse the Obama administration’s addition of gender identity to federal anti-discrimination rules in areas including housing, health care and contracting, often in the interest of protecting religious freedom.

In a case before the Supreme Court, the Justice Department has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not prohibit discrimination based on “transgender status,” pitting the department against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The National Center for Transgender Equality maintains a list of “anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ actions” taken by what it calls the “discrimination administration.” The tally includes more than 40 decisions so far.

“[T]his administration straight up doesn’t think the LGBTQ community should have rights, and they’re deploying every strategy to ensure that that doesn’t happen,” Ms. Stachelberg said on a press call. “And we need to fight back at every turn.”The Log Cabin Republicans don’t agree with everything Mr. Trump does — they have urged him to change his mind on banning transgender troops — but they also believe he has benefited the LGBTQ community in ways that go beyond policy by building bridges with conservatives.

As the first president to back same-sex marriage before he was elected, Mr. Trump all but took the issue off the table for Republicans, even though the party platform supports traditional marriage. At the height of the transgender bathroom debate, he gave Caitlyn Jenner carte blanche at Trump Tower.

“Donald Trump went to several gay weddings, he supported marriage equality when he was elected, and even on issues like transgender bathrooms, Donald Trump said Caitlyn Jenner can use whatever bathroom she wants to,” said Mr. Moran. “And he shut that debate down.”

Critics were quick to point out that the Trump administration also rescinded in 2017 an Obama-era guidance on transgender bathroom access for students and moved the issue to the states. In October, Ms. Jenner penned an op-ed saying she was wrong about her previous support for Mr. Trump.

“The reality is that the trans community is being relentlessly attacked by this president,” she wrote.

Moving in the opposite direction was Brandon Straka, the openly gay New York hairstylist who founded #WalkAway Campaign, an effort to persuade Democrats to leave the party. He said the catalyst was Mr. Trump’s 2016 election victory, which started him on a political journey that led him to sever his Democratic allegiance in 2017.

Since then, Mr. Straka has held numerous town halls, including three for the LGBTQ community. One issue that resonates with gay voters is illegal immigration, he said, given that an unknown number of those crossing the southern border hail from nations where homosexuality remains a crime.

“That’s a factor for a lot of people, too,” Mr. Straka said. “They recognize we’re very lucky to be LGBTQ people in America, and if we open up our borders, then America might not be America anymore. And we won’t be safe.”

He made a bit of history this month when he appeared as a warm-up speaker at a Trump rally in Cincinnati. Not long ago, he said, he would have been terrified to discuss LGBTQ issues before a “Make America Great Again” crowd, but he was met with cheers and chants of “walk away.”

“I almost started crying because I ended it by saying I had a message directly for President Trump, which was, ‘If you hadn’t been elected president, I never would have changed. I would still be a liberal,’ ” Mr. Straka recalled.

He also had a message for LGBTQ Americans: “I told them, ‘I’m asking you to do something that may be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do: Let go of the past, forgive and learn to have faith in your fellow man again.’

“And everyone erupted into applause,” Mr. Straka said.

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