You can now buy “LGBTQ for Trump” t-shirts from the Republican presidential nominee’s website. But if you think the new merch signals that Trump is now in favor of equal rights for LGBTQ people, think again.
Trump is opposed to marriage equality, indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t object to anti-trans state laws like North Carolina’s HB2, and none of the 11 names he has floated as his potential Supreme Court nominees have established reputations as being LGBTQ allies. In January, Trump said he would “strongly consider” appointing justices who would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage if elected president, and his list of potential SCOTUS appointees indicates he wasn’t kidding. He also has a history of making LGBTQ-disparaging comments.
And all of that comes before we even get to Trump’s vice presidential choice, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), who prior to becoming Trump’s running mate was perhaps best known nationally for signing a bill that gave his state’s businesses, employers, and healthcare providers the ability to refuse service to LGBTQ people on “religious liberty” grounds. Nonetheless, Pence’s name appears on the back of the “LGBTQ for Trump” shirts.
In short, the Trump campaign wants you to believe Trump is more LGBTQ-friendly than previous GOP presidential nominees, but there’s no substance to back that up.
That became even clearer Tuesday morning when Trump spokesman Boris Epshteyn went on CNN to try and defend Trump’s new merchandise. But instead of mentioning any pro-LGBTQ policy stances Trump has taken, Epshteyn bashed Hillary Clinton.
“This campaign is reaching out to all communities, and of course we’re reaching out to the LGBTQ community because Hillary Clinton has such a terrible record on LGBTQ issues,” Epshteyn said before going on to mention that Clinton used to oppose marriage equality — a position Trump still holds. Clinton, on the other hand, came out in favor of marriage equality more than three years ago.
Pressed by CNN host Victor Blackwell about what Trump is actually offering LGBTQ people in terms of policy, Epshteyn couldn’t do better than saying that “when the horrible shooting in Orlando happened, [Trump] said that ISIS specifically was targeting the gay LGBTQ community… ISIS is specifically targeting the gay community, and Donald Trump is the only one who can protect this country.”
But as the Human Rights Campaign’s JoDee Winterhoff pointed out during the same segment, when Trump recently traveled to Orlando, he met with anti-LGBTQ evangelicals, not members of the LGBTQ community.
Along with shirts, Trump is just selling his familiar brand of Islamophobia to the LGBTQ community. But it appears he’ll have to do better to peel away Clinton’s support — recent polling indicates Clinton leads 84 to 16 among likely LGBTQ voters. That’s even worse than Mitt Romney did in 2012, when he won 22 percent of the LGBTQ community’s vote.