Contrary to those in the media and elsewhere who claimed he was "far more accepting" on LGBT issues than other GOP candidates, Donald Trump is proving that he very much will be a force against LGBT equality if elected president. And he's doing it in a more insidious, under-the-radar way than any previous GOP presidential nominee.
Though he rarely raises his positions against LGBT rights on the campaign trail, Trump is making pacts with anti-LGBT forces. Today, Trump spoke at the Road to the Majority summit in Washington, an event attended by Christian right activists and sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, both of which fight against LGBT rights. "I'm with you 100 percent," he said, and, knowing the event was televised live on the cable networks, he spoke with a dog whistle on LGBT rights, alluding to attacks on "marriage and family" and championing "religious freedom," which of course has been the term used by evangelicals to deny LGBT people of rights. The crowd roared with approval.
And on June 21, in New York, Trump will have a private meeting with over 400 of the most bigoted, most homophobic and most influential anti-LGBT advocates in the United States -- from Family Research Council's Tony Perkins to James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family -- the bedrock of the religious right, which has been a prominent part of the base of the Republican Party for decades. Many of these groups, like Family Research Council, have been labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. No GOP president in roughly five decades has been elected without the religious right turning out in big numbers. No GOP president has been elected in modern times without evangelical pastors railing from pulpits across the country, telling followers that the only way to save the country is to support the GOP presidential candidate. Ben Carson, who has taken a prominent role in Trump's campaign, will moderate the discussion between Trump and the hundreds of anti-LGBT activists, which is closed to the media and thus tightly controlled.
Trump had already quietly made pacts with some anti-LGBT forces, and promised to do what he can to overturn the Supreme Court's historic Obergefell ruling, which he called, "shocking." He promised he'd appoint justices to the Supreme Court who might do that, and certainly the list of extreme judges he provided recently shouldn't give LGBT people any comfort.
But Trump will also likely accept an endorsement from the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), the gay GOP group that's been desperate to be validated by the GOP for years and is aching for a meeting with Trump -- publicly calling for one -- so they can get behind him. Already, LCR leader Gregory T. Angelo has called Trump "one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency." As in the past, LCR will settle for very little. And the group will help Trump appear more moderate to suburban and independent voters while he quietly makes further pacts with those extremists on the right intent on rolling back LGBT rights or stopping advances -- pacts he will be bound to in return for getting evangelicals out to vote.
How Angelo can even say what he said about Trump is because the bar of course is set very low for GOP candidates, and the media has only fed into this fiction about Trump. Though he opposes marriage equality and supports a bill in Congress that will allow religious exemptions for anti-gay individuals and businesses that don't want to provide services to LGBT people, The New York Times, for example, focused on Trump's sending a congratulations note to Elton John eleven years ago on his civil union as one among several weak examples that supposedly show him to be more gay-friendly.
As I pointed out a few weeks ago, simply having Ben Carson prominent in his campaign -- a man who compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia -- is an affront to LGBT people. And as RightWingWatch's Brian Tashman noted, Trump has also "partnered with Harlem's notorious 'stone homos' pastor James David Manning and far-right radio show host Alex Jones, who thinks the LGBT rights movement is a 'suicide cult' bent on the destruction of humanity."
Trump early on got the backing of Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University and some other prominent religious right leaders, and evangelicals have helped him win primaries in several states, enough for him to bellow in Nevada, "I love the evangelicals!" But Trump has met with resistance from others, including from the Southern Baptist Convention's Russell Moore, because they don't trust his past positions supporting abortion rights and also because he has been divorced twice and is vulgar toward women and others, certainly not a paragon of Christian piety.
But make no mistake: Christian right leaders got behind Ronald Reagan, who was divorced, and George H. W. Bush, who formerly supported abortion rights, after they were romanced a bit and quietly forged pacts with the candidates, including regarding stopping advancement on gay rights. That process is happening right now with Trump. His campaign, and certainly Republican leaders, know he cannot win without motivating a large portion of evangelicals. And right now anti-LGBT laws and measures meant to blunt equality are animating religious conservatives in a big way, as a furious backlash to marriage equality plays out across the country. No matter what Trump has said in the past, or what the media or desperate gay Republicans may say now, there's no question that Trump must bow to an anti-LGBT agenda if he wants to win the presidency. That makes him a mortal danger to LGBT equality.
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.