Once upon a time, the Log Cabin Republicans were nominally a pro-LGBTQ organization.
“There are still too many Republican candidates who try to capitalize on gay issues by using anti-gay politics,” decried the group’s former executive director Patrick Sammon back in 2008. “I think it’s less effective. We’ll see less of it in the future.”
On Friday, the same group offered its unqualified endorsement of President Donald Trump, a racist, sexist, white supremacist who has spent his first three years in office undermining every protection and right that the LGBTQ community has spent decades fighting for.
In an op-ed published in The Washington Post, Robert Kabel and Jill Homan, the group’s chairman and vice chairwoman, bend over backwards trying to find a positive spin on the blatantly anti-LGBTQ agenda put forth by this administration, a mental contortion so difficult they were compelled to name drop Apple CEO Tim Cook before they managed to invoke the man they are endorsing.
The crux of their argument appears to be that the Republican Party’s animosity towards the LGBTQ community is more subtle today than it was in the 1990s, and therefore Trump is deserving of praise.
“For LGBTQ Republicans, watching the 2016 GOP convention before Donald Trump took the stage was like a dream fulfilled,” Kabel and Homan write.
“The distance between that event and Pat Buchanan’s hate-filled exhortation against the LGBTQ community in Houston in 1992 is a powerful measurement of how far we’ve come.”
That is the tragicomical bar with which the Log Cabins are measuring Trump’s ally-ship: Pat Buchanan publicly decrying the “radical feminism” of President Bill Clinton’s agenda of “homosexual rights” onstage at the Republican National Convention. And it’s a bar that, as Kabel and Homan acknowledge, the modern GOP clears only barely.
“Some of the moral leaders who stood with Buchanan back then were still there three years ago in Cleveland, to be sure. But this time, they refrained from passing judgment on gays and lesbians,” the endorsement reads. Yes, the only difference between Pat Buchanan’s Republican Party and Donald Trump’s is that the homophobia is now latent. Progress!
Kabel and Homan make a few ham-fisted attempts to point to “accomplishments” by the current administration, and predictably come up short.
They point to Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this year in which he promised to end the spread of HIV in 10 years, without offering much in the way of details about how he planned to achieve this.
In fact, in the months since that promise, the Trump administration has done nothing but obstruct access to health care, particularly among those who are most vulnerable to HIV diagnoses.
Trump tried to take credit for a sizable donation of HIV prevention drug Truvada by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, neglecting to mention the donation was widely seen by activists as little more than a public relations ploy by the company in an attempt to head off a potential legal fight over the drug’s expiring patent.
Indeed, Trump’s supposed interest in ending the HIV epidemic flies in the face of his actual record on the issue, including his decision to fire the entire membership of the White House’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2017.
The two also hailed the Trump administration’s recently unveiled initiative to fight the criminalization of homosexuality abroad, specifically targeting a list of some 70 countries which have laws expressly prohibiting homosexuality. They point to the selection of Richard Grennell, the highest ranking openly gay member of the administration who was appointed to head up the initiative, to underscore the seriousness with which the administration is addressing the problem.
What a happy coincidence, then, that chief on the list of countries targeted by this initiative is Iran, a country that Trump has spent his entire term attacking. The initiative was announced weeks after Iran publicly hanged a man for being gay, and was seen by many foreign policy experts as a way to gin up international pressure on the country under the guise of concern for human rights abuses.
For a real exploration of the seriousness with which the administration concerns itself with anti-LGBTQ violence abroad, consider the case of Brunei, a country with which Trump has had numerous previous business dealings. Rulers there imposed new draconian anti-LGBTQ laws earlier this year — after the White House’s initiative was launched — that included the death penalty for anyone engaging in “homosexual acts.” The international community erupted in outrage. The Trump White House was silent on the matter.
Also on the list of anti-LGBTQ countries: Saudi Arabia. In April, five men were accused of homosexuality and subsequently beheaded as part of a larger mass execution of nearly 40 people for various charges. One of them reportedly had his dismembered body and head pinned to a pole in a public square.
Trump counts the Saudi royal family among his closest business partners and allies, and has repeatedly sided with them over the United States’ intelligence agencies. His financial ties to the country and its monarchy stretch back decades and into the tens of millions of dollars.
Just how invested is Trump in his administration’s effort to combat international oppression of the LGBTQ community? A White House reporter wondered the same:
Q: Mr. President, on your push to decriminalize homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?
TRUMP: Say it?
Q: Your push to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.
TRUMP: I don't know which report you're talking about. We have many reports.
Via Yahoo News pic.twitter.com/AQH4i66u9s
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 20, 2019
Kabel and Homan’s last piece of evidence is somehow their most disingenuous. They spend a paragraph extolling the “accomplishments” of this administration, arguing that they benefitted the entire country. And since there are LGBTQ people in the country — ipso facto, presto chango — he must be pro-LGBTQ.
Among the accomplishments they cite: “The president’s tax cuts,” which exploded the deficit and only benefitted the wealthiest Americans at the expense of low and middle class workers; “aggressive negotiations on trade deals,” which have resulted in an economically disastrous trade war with China that had farmers in states like Minnesota booing Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week; and “his hard line on foreign policy,” including, among other things, his inhumane policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the southwest border and demonizing asylum seekers who are fleeing, among other things, anti-LGBTQ persecution in their home countries.
Ignored are Trump’s targeted harassment of the transgender community. Or his refusal to accommodate the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats stationed in the United States. Or a decision announced just this week by the Department of Labor to make it easier for private businesses to fire employees for being gay.
To any discerning human, whatever “support” the current occupant of the White House displays for the LGBTQ community is not owed to a concerted effort to protect a vulnerable, persecuted community, but to a happy accident that affords the administration good optics.
Or, to have the Log Cabin Republicans of 2008 put it another way, “The fact is that there are still people … who lack integrity who are willing to try and use gay people as a political issue.”