Fabiola Santiago

Trump betrays gay Republicans who billed him as LGBT-friendly

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds an LGBTQ-pride rainbow flag as he arrives at a campaign rally at the University of Northern Colorado, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Greeley, Colorado.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds an LGBTQ-pride rainbow flag as he arrives at a campaign rally at the University of Northern Colorado, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Greeley, Colorado. AP

The Log Cabin Republicans bill themselves as the nation’s largest Republican organization representing gay and lesbian conservatives and allies “who believe inclusion wins.” Under that definition, you might think that Hillary Clinton, with her motto “Stronger Together” and her unequivocal support for gay rights, might have swayed their vote. After all, many Republicans broke ranks with the GOP over the ugly and divisive Trump candidacy.

But not a chance. The Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, particularly, were bamboozled by The Donald, whom they pushed as the most LGBT-friendly candidate. Although the national group refrained from endorsing Trump, the Miami chapter endorsed, campaigned, and voted for the Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket — ignoring the threat to the gains achieved for the gay community during the Obama years.

Did gay Republicans and supporters really believe that with the ideological and religious rigidity of Pence the Trump administration wouldn’t push back on gay rights?

Not surprisingly, the Trump administration on Wednesday ended the federal protection that President Barack Obama extended to transgender students, allowing them to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity. The ruse to strip children of this important safety net for privacy and dignity is that Obama’s guidelines were a legal overreach. The decision as to which bathrooms students use belongs to states and local school districts, the administration ruled.

Anyone with the most elementary knowledge of civil rights history knows that in this country leaving such issues to the states or local authorities means some will do the right thing — and others won’t. Who will protect the child in a homophobic small town in suburbia? Who will speak for the child in rural America and ultra-conservative communities? We’re lucky in Miami-Dade and Broward that school officials immediately pledged to support transgender children’s right to use the bathroom they feel comfortable in. But North Carolina recently passed a law restricting access to bathrooms in government-owned buildings to the sex that appears on a person’s birth certificate. State legislatures in 10 more states want to pass similar laws. How much do you want to bet that the state of Florida too will try again to jump on that ultra-conservative bandwagon?

The message Obama sent was of acceptance, inclusion, and a warning that bullying wouldn’t be tolerated. How can it be OK to take away that presidential blessing at a time when anger, hatred and division are par for the course in this country?

“I wish this had not happened,” Vincent Foster, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, tells me.

But he stands by Trump — and in fact, my questioning of his alliance to Trump, he says, is offensive.

“We’re not a monolithic community. We do not focus on one issue, whether it’s gay marriage or a bathroom bill. Security is the most important thing, then the economy. ... I find it offensive when liberals try to pigeonhole me on how I should or shouldn’t vote on issues as if I were a sub-American. Obviously, I care about gay rights. But at the end of the night, I care more about whether I’m going to be targeted because of my sexual orientation and whether I’m going to be fired because of my sexual orientation.”

That’s exactly why the presidential guidance on transgender bathrooms that Trump took away was significant. But Foster thinks Trump will be able to pass legislation giving gays more lasting protections like passing anti-discrimination Title IX legislation through Congress. As for other issues, his talking points are straight out of the Republican playbook. He shuns Obama for not calling the Pulse killer “a radical Islamic terrorist.” He says the Democrats want to take away his guns. Etc.

Sigh.

The 2016 presidential election will go down in the history books for more reasons than I have space to list, but this one gets me all the time: Way too many people voted for Trump against their own best interests. The poor, small entrepreneurs and countless others with pre-existing health conditions who depend on the Affordable Care Act voted for him — and are now up in arms at town halls across the country fighting the repeal movement in Congress. People strangled by overdevelopment in places like Miami-Dade voted Republican down the ticket to re-elect local, state and congressional lawmakers who put business interests above neighborhoods every single time. Although not in significant numbers, Muslims and Hispanics, too, voted for Trump knowing that he had threatened to embark on mass deportations and bans.

And now, this betrayal of gays who campaigned for him and deserve all of the protections the president could possibly extend. It wasn’t that the Obama directive to the schools carried the force of law that made it meaningful, but that it sent an important message to gay students. From the highest office in the land, they were cared for and protected.

Of course, as Foster righfully claims, the Log Cabin Republicans can vote for whoever they want and prioritize whatever issues they deem important like everyone else. But they didn’t do transgender children any favors by promoting and voting for Trump.  

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