Hostilities escalate as GOP approves anti-LGBT platform
The Republican National Convention this week will include an openly gay speaker in a prime-time slot on Thursday night, when Donald Trump accepts the party’s nomination for president. But that’s about it, for pro-LGBT news coming out of Cleveland this week.
Openly gay PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel is slated to speak in a high-profile slot at the convention. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told reporters that Thiel is a friend of Trump and that his being gay had nothing to do with his being given such a coveted spot.
“People are going to be speaking at this convention based on what they want to say, not on any particular sexual preference or things like that,” Manafort told reporters.
The first openly gay speaker at a Republican National Convention was Log Cabin Republicans member Steve Fong of California in 1996. Four years later, openly gay U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona spoke to the convention, becoming the first openly gay member of Congress to do so.
But most news out of the convention so far this week has highlighted the tension between the Republican Party and the LGBT community.
Log Cabin Republicans, a national group of LGBT Republicans, placed a full-page ad in the Cleveland edition of USA Today Tuesday, harshly criticizing the Republican Party for proposing the “most anti-LGBT platform in the Republican Party’s 162-year history.”
A group called “Planting Peace” paid for billboard space near the convention site in Cleveland to post a rendering of Trump and Cruz “kissing” along with the message, “Love Trumps Hate – End Homophobia.” In a webpost, the organization said its message is motivated by a desire to end “negative, hateful” messages “in the name of religious freedom.”
And on Thursday night, a coalition of LGBT groups has bought national television air time on Fox News to run a political ad that talks about what it’s like to be a transgender person banned from using a restroom that corresponds to their sexual identity. The ad shows both a restaurant employee barring a transgender woman from entering a women’s room and two women restaurant patrons intervening to enable her to use the women’s restroom.
During the convention, LGBT-organized protests against Trump were staged outside Trump Tower in New York City. In a press release, Gays Against Guns and Queer Nation-NY criticized the GOP for “most anti-LGBTQ platform yet.” Tuesday’s demonstration was called “Stop the Hate, Stop the Guns.” Ironically, Chris Cox, a speaker representing the National Rifle Association, speaking during prime-time Tuesday night, assured viewers that the NRA is fighting “for the rights of all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation.”
The Human Rights Campaign distributed an email Monday saying it is “prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to defeat” the GOP ticket of Trump and his vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, governor of Indiana.
“Donald Trump would immediately undermine every ounce of progress we have made over the last eight, historic years – and he would put a stop to all progress we hope to achieve in the next four,” said the email, signed by HRC President Chad Griffin.
Politico.com reported Tuesday that Paul Singer, founder of the pro-LGBT political action committee American Unity Fund, snubbed an important fundraiser for the Trump campaign in Cleveland Monday. Singer’s PAC began lobbying delegates last December, seeking a more LGBT-friendly platform. That effort failed, and the platform the convention is expected to approve this week is still hostile to equal rights for LGBT people.
Speaking to a C-SPAN host of Washington Journal Tuesday morning, openly gay Republican Platform Committee member Rachel Hoff of Washington, D.C., said she was “encouraged” by the fact that an amendment to have a conversation about marriage equality got about one-fourth of the committee’s vote. The amendment received little debate July 11 and it and a second amendment asking the party to acknowledge support for the Orlando nightclub shooting victims failed.
“In one since, our party’s come a long way on LGBT issues,” said Hoff. “Sixty percent of young Republicans now support marriage equality. Within the Republican Party as a whole, that number is not yet a majority but it is increasing and I have no doubt that it will be a majority of Republicans soon, supporting marriage equality. I think the Platform Committee in many ways is lagging behind, certainly the country on these issues, but even our own party.”
Hoff said she thinks the Republican platform “sends a really harmful message” on marriage equality, transgender use of bathrooms, conversion therapy, and adoption of children by gays. She said the message to LGBT people, young Republicans, and the majority of Americans is that the party isn’t interested in their views. She said that last week was “the first time” she considered leaving the party. She said the debate around the LGBT amendments displayed what “seemed to me like a concerted effort to resist any mention of the LGBT community in a positive way in our platform.”
“It made me feel personally excluded, but this isn’t about me,” said Hoff. “…This is about principle, it’s about core beliefs, and I hope our party will eventually evolve to catch up with the country, catch up with young people in our own party, and accept the reality that LGBT rights –marriage equality in particular—are squarely in line with Republican Party principles.”
“I’ve known the party was against the right of same-sex couples to marry. I’ve not been living under a rock for the past 12 years,” said Hoff.
Hoff acknowledged signing a petition from the District of Columbia delegation, seeking an open convention because she thinks the “delegates should be able to play a role in the process of nominating.”
“I don’t like the idea the convention is just pre-scripted and pre-determined.” She said she doesn’t plan to vote for Trump in November.
“His rhetoric, his principles, his policies –to the degree that he ever talks about them –are simply not in line with my own,” said Hoff. “There are, of course, issues that we agree on, but the kind of leadership that he has indicated that he would exercise as president is a form of divisive leadership, in my view, and not one that would bring the country together.”
“The party is useful to the degree it advances what any individual believes in,” explained Hoff.
During the Tuesday morning call-in show, a woman from Columbia, South Carolina, called in to say that Hoff seemed like “a really nice lady, but the platform is not for enshrining a vice like gambling or the lifestyles of gay and lesbian as a sacrament and that’s why I don’t think that belongs in a platform.”
Hoff said she takes issue with referring to homosexuality as a “vice,” and said she only wants to “enshrine what’s best in human nature and in our country as well and, for me, all I ask is for the freedom to live my life as who I am, the freedom to love who I love, and the rights and protections the government grants to my heterosexual friends.”
Outside the convention arena, scuffles broke out throughout the day, between pro-Trump supporters and protesters unhappy with his positions on LGBT people, women, immigration, and police violence against African Americans, to name just a few. The International Business Times reported that on late Tuesday afternoon, the tensions had escalated to the point where protesters representing Black Lives Matter, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Westboro Baptist Church were fighting and throwing urine and feces at one another. The Huffington Post reported that one man with a megaphone called out that “Homos leading Black Lives Matter!”
Meanwhile, Tony Schwartz, the man who ghostwrote Trump’s biography The Art of the Deal said in the July 25 New Yorker magazine that “Lying is second-nature” to Trump and that Trump has an “absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” It gets worse.
“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization,” said Schwartz.
He also notes, as has been published before, that Trump was impressed with closeted gay attorney Roy Cohn, the right-hand man to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s crusade against Communists. Trump hired Cohn as his personal lawyer and said they were such dear friends that Cohn was “the sort of guy who’d be there at your hospital bed . . . literally standing by you to the death.”
Cohn, said Schwartz, “felt abandoned by Trump when he became fatally ill from AIDS.”
Speaking during prime-time Tuesday night will be Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed both a “religious freedom” law and a law to prevent local jurisdictions from prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people. He’ll be followed by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who vigorously defended the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, but once the U.S. Supreme Court decision was issued striking down such bans, Rutledge issued a statement saying “the decision must be followed.” Both are likely to bring up the need to protect the ability of some to discriminate against LGBT people based on their professed religious beliefs.
Also speaking Tuesday night was former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who reversed an earlier decision by the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush to prevent LGBT employee groups from using DOJ bulletin boards and email to distribute information about their meetings.
The big name speakers during prime-time Tuesday were House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.