GOP presidential candidates campaign against LGBTQ people

Donald Trump at the CNN town hall on May 10. (Screenshot via Youtube)

Donald Trump continues to lead in polling among the GOP candidates for president despite his latest arraignment on June 13 in Miami for 37 federal felony charges related to the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and “willful retention” of classified documents. Trump is the only president ever indicted and is currently involved in several legal cases. He is also the most anti-LGBTQ president in U.S. history, as PGN has reported.

Another GOP candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has built his personal brand on anti-LGBTQ policies. Even his much discussed battle with Disney began as a fight over LGBTQ civil rights and the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which President Biden deemed “hateful.” 

While Trump leads the GOP pack of presidential candidates, his legal woes may start to impact his campaign as he is forced to appear in court for different trials. That could open the door for DeSantis to rise or allow one of the other candidates to lure away GOP voters weary of Trump’s problems. Trump has also backed several losing candidates in down ballot midterm elections because they agreed the 2020 election was stolen from him, for which there is no evidence.

Yet while there is a growing number of candidates from which to choose, nearly all have anti-LGBTQ rhetoric as a definitive aspect of their campaigns, and many have a past history of anti-LGBTQ politics and policy. 

The current slate of GOP candidates as of June 14 includes well-known names other than Trump and DeSantis: former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. 

Others include conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, billionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and North Dakota governor Doug Burgum. 

Among the less well-known contenders, Ramaswamy, best known for getting CNN’s out Black gay anchor Don Lemon fired after an on-air altercation, is virulently anti-gay and anti-trans, and he has promoted those stances on Twitter.

In a May interview with the conservative news site Washington examiner, Ramaswamy said, “The  ‘LGBTQIA+ movement’ has become a cult. It’s not about logic.”

Elder ran for governor in California during the recall election for Gavin Newsom in 2021. His anti-LGBTQ rhetoric was so extreme the Los Angeles Blade wrote that “Black trans and queer POC safety is threatened by ‘Trumplican’ Larry Elder.” 

While Hutchinson currently seems the most moderate candidate with regard to his stance on Trump’s legal issues and is not talking about LGBTQ issues yet, his history as governor was not good for LGBTQ people. In 2021 Hutchinson signed legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, giving providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients.

Sen. Scott is running to “uplift America,” but the GLAAD Accountability Project notes he voted against the Equality Act and “considers homosexuality a morally wrong choice, like adultery. We are by nature sinful.” 

On June 5 Scott was booed by the audience when he appeared on ABC’s “The View” for saying children were being “indoctrinated” about LGBTQ issues.

Despite the stances of those candidates, none of them have a longer anti-LGBTQ resume than former Vice President Mike Pence

As governor of Indiana, Pence adopted many anti-LGBTQ stances. And while serving in Congress, he argued that “homosexuality is a choice” during his fight in the early 1990s against local efforts in Indiana to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Indiana Democratic party lists a timeline of Pence’s anti-LGBTQ actions over the past 23 years which includes efforts to quash testing and treatments for HIV/AIDS. Pence has also supported conversion therapy in the past. HRC called Pence “the worst Vice President for LGBTQ people in modern history.”

During his CNN town hall on June 7, Pence, who has a long anti-gay history, stated his staunch opposition to various LGBTQ causes and events. 

Moderator Dana Bash pushed hard on Pence during the segment of the town hall focused on LGBTQ issues, at points highlighting how Pence contradicted himself and his positions on parental rights with regard to LGBTQ people.

Pence said declaratively that he supports parental rights, but was just as staunch that he would ban all forms of gender transition for people under the age of 18. “When you’re talking about something that is absolutely transformational and has profound negative effects on people in the long-term,” Pence said. “Before they had a surgical procedure. I would say, just wait.”

Pence repeatedly referred to “radical gender ideology,” a phrase used by the GOP and others that claims transgender identity is simply an ideological position. That false narrative and language also bolsters the false claim by the right and others (like trans exclusionary radical feminists) that there is an actual political and social movement that is attempting to convince young people to change their gender identities. 

Pence said, “We’ve got to protect kids from making decisions that permanently alter their bodies.”

So while Pence repeatedly highlighted his support for “parents’ rights,” he said the judgment of those same parents cannot be supported if a minor is seeking gender transition care. Taking a startlingly authoritarian stance, Pence said the state should intervene in such cases and prevent parents from accessing care for their trans children. 

“I strongly support state legislation, including, as we did in Indiana, that bans all gender transition, chemical or surgical procedures, under the age of 18,” he said – even when parents support their child’s decision to go forward.

“However adults want to live, they can live,” Pence said. “But for children, we’re going to protect kids from the radical gender ideology and say no chemical or surgical transition before you’re 18.”

Pressed on the age question by Bash, Pence compared gender transition to body art, saying, “There’s a reason why you don’t let kids get a tattoo before they’re 18.”

When Bash asked what he would say to children and families who feel targeted by his position and those of his ideological allies, Pence said, “I’d put my arm around them and tell them I love ‘em,” he said, “but (tell them) ‘Just wait.’”

In her CNN GOP candidate town hall on June 4, Haley made the extreme — and false — claim that trans girls in sports is causing teenage girls to contemplate suicide.

“How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room? And then they wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year,” Haley said. “We should be growing strong girls; confident girls.”

Haley said, “The idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports — it is the women’s issue of our time.” 

With that statement, Haley placed trans girls in sports ahead of Black women dying in childbirth at record rates, 1 in 5 women being a victim of sexual assault, lesbians and bisexual women being victims of “corrective rape,” and women still only making a fraction of what men make for the same job.

It’s not. Nor is it the reason why girls are depressed and suicidal. Girls are self-harming and suicidally depressed because they are under threat from discrimination, sexual harassment and assault and sometimes because they are lesbian, bi and queer. 

The likelihood of an LGBTQ teen being suicidal due to the repressive measures that Haley and other GOP candidates are promoting is real. What Haley said is dangerously false.

Philadelphians are familiar with Christie, who is now anti-Trump after being the first to endorse him in 2016. Christie is widely perceived to be among the most moderate of all the GOP candidates, but also has the highest unfavorables in polling of the candidates thus far. Yet Christie’s June 12 Town Hall reached 1.35 million viewers, the biggest audience since Trump’s.

CNN anchor Erin Burnett said of Christie post-town hall, “I didn’t hear about drag queens, trans athletes, Bud light, Target. I was like whoa — I don’t believe I didn’t hear about those things in a Republican town hall.”

CNN commentator and former Obama aide Van Jones said, “Chris Christie tonight was a harbor for sane politics. Not just for Republicans. 

He talked about actual people. There is now an option for the ‘double disappointed’ who don’t want Biden or Trump.” 

Christie was the first governor in the U.S. to ban conversion therapy in 2013.

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