LGBT support solidly behind Clinton in SC; GOP dividing over Trump
The LGBT community appears to have been solidly behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s primary. Clinton trounced U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic primary, 73 percent to 26 percent. Meanwhile, the battle for the Republican nomination has turned into an ugly war of insults that threatens to tear the party apart.
In South Carolina, all the visible support in the LGBT community appeared to be behind Clinton, a phenomenon similar to that of the African American vote (84 percent of which went to Clinton).
The South Carolina Equality Coalition endorsed Clinton, and about 200 people attended its fundraiser for her February 25, with guest speaker U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). SCEC also organized a door-to-door canvas to get out the vote on primary day and urged LGBT people to show their support for Clinton outside CNN’s Democratic town hall February 23. Clinton gave the keynote address at the SCEC’s annual dinner last November.
Coalition Chair Malissa Burnette, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in South Carolina’s marriage equality case, said she supports Clinton because Clinton really understands LGBT issues and has “concrete plans” to address them.
“Last Fall, when Hillary Clinton addressed our Equality gala, it was clear that she had a depth of understanding not only of the issues facing LGBT individuals, but she had real solutions,” said Burnette. “She had studied every aspect of how LGBT folks have been excluded from full participation in society — from military regulation to employment discrimination to simply being able to check into a hotel or go to a restaurant.”
Burnette said she saw no organized LGBT support for Sanders, and this reporter found only one activist who wagered that, if he was “pressed to pick,” he would “probably” support Sanders.
Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a non-profit group working for LGBT equality, said the Human Rights Campaign “came into South Carolina with a huge effort to get out the LGBT vote for Clinton.”
“I haven’t seen any LGBT organizational endorsement or push for Sanders,” he said. The AFFA, as a a 501(c)(3), cannot make endorsements.
Linda Ketner, who made a strong bid for a Congressional seat in South Carolina in 2008 and is a co-founder of AFFA and the SC Equality Coalition, said she thinks Clinton and Sanders are “equal in terms of support of and for our community.”
“In my opinion, a President Clinton would have a better chance of moving pro LGBT legislation through an obdurate Congress than a President Sanders,” added Ketner, “but more importantly, when we as LGBT people, for the first time in history, are in the position to find support from both candidates, we get the gift and opportunity of looking more broadly than our sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The Republican brawl
The Republicans held their primary in South Carolina February 20, and real estate mogul Donald Trump won with a large margin over the four other candidates in the field. Combat among the five candidates intensified following that primary, as they began to push hard for support in the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries and caucuses in 14 states. First, they traded insults during a nationally televised debate on CNN, Trump deriding U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for having “problems with your credit cards;” Rubio accusing Trump of hiring illegal workers; U.S. Senator Ted Cruz hammering home the point that Trump has given thousands of dollars to “open border politicians.”
The following day, in front of a campaign audience in Dallas, Rubio claimed that, backstage at the debate the night before, Trump was having such a “meltdown” he needed a full-length mirror “maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.” Trump, at his own event, splashed a bottle of water across the stage to demonstrate how Rubio “sweats…like he had just jumped into a swimming pool with his clothes on.”
There was some talk of issues.
Ohio Governor John Kasich set himself apart from the four other Republican presidential hopefuls during the February 25 debate in Houston. He was asked whether he would stand up for business vendors who cite their religious beliefs to justify refusing service to same-sex couples.
“Religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in. No question and no doubt about it,” said Kasich. He reiterated that he does not “favor” same-sex marriage.
“But look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on. And what I’ve said…is –Look, where does it end?” said Kasich. “If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with –OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.
“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” said Kasich. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”
Rubio, campaigning in Dallas February 26, made clear that he would appoint justices “like Justice Scalia,” and that people would be able to “live out the teachings of your faith –not just to believe whatever you want, but to live out those teachings in every aspect of your life.”
Trump at a press conference Friday quickly disavowed an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. But on a CNN program Sunday, when asked again about the endorsement from Duke and other white supremacy groups, Trump suddenly said he didn’t want to “condemn a group that I know nothing about.”
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump told Jake Tapper on State of the Union. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
“I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”
Trump’s opponents for the nomination immediately lashed out.
Rubio said Republicans “cannot be the party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.” Kasich posted a Twitter message, saying “Hate groups have no place in America.”
By Monday, Trump was saying that CNN had given him a “bad earpiece” for the interview and he could “hardly hear” what Tapper was asking.
Just two days earlier, at a large campaign rally in Oklahoma City, supporters drew Trump’s attention to a man wearing a tee-shirt that said “KKK endorses Trump.”
According to KOCO-News in Oklahoma City, the man was originally seated in the seats onstage behind Trump and the crowd erupted against him when he hoisted a sign that said “Islamaphobia is not the answer.” He then removed his jacket, revealing the tee-shirt that carried a hand-written message, “KKK endorses Trump” and appeared to have a yellow star taped onto it.
The crowd appeared to be startled and concerned about the man’s presence, then seemed to laugh, and eventually began chanting “U.S.A.” Trump stopped speaking, turned to see what was happening, and waited. The man smiled, waved to Trump, and appeared to say something, and Trump turned and walked to the other side of the stage. He then walked back and watched as someone squatting in front of the man spoke to him. Then Trump walked back to the microphone.
“You see,” he said, “in the good ole days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. In the good ole days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody’s politically correct. Our country’s going to hell with being politically correct.” According to various reports, the man was eventually escorted out of the arena by police.
But even before the KKK signals of support for Trump, the threat of a Trump nomination loomed large for the GOP. The New York Times reported Saturday that colleagues of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say McConnell vowed the party would “drop him like a hot rock” if Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination.