June 11, 2017 at 2:33 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Why they march
John Fluharty, gay news, Washington Blade, equality march 2017

John Fluharty, former chair of the Delaware Republican Party, said he’s a speaker at the event in Delaware to demonstrate Republicans can be in support of LGBT rights. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The Equality March for Unity and Pride is set to bring LGBT rights into focus after a series of anti-Trump marches on a range of issues, but some participants say LGBT rights are just one motivating factor for their decision to march.

After all, President Trump has taken not only controversial actions against LGBT rights, such as making anti-LGBT appointments and withdrawing guidance protecting transgender students, but has riled the progressive community with actions such as a travel ban on Muslim countries and threats to undermine abortion rights and the decision to abandon the Paris climate accord.

For a president who has declined to sign a “religious freedom” order enabling anti-LGBT discrimination and pledged to keep in place the Obama-era executive order against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, the attempts to undermine LGBT rights may seem small in comparison.

Sian Lewis, a lesbian D.C. resident, said LGBT issues are “the No. 1 reason” for her participation in the march, citing progress made during the Obama years and “just seeing it being rolled back slowly but surely under Trump.”

One particular action with which Lewis took issue is the weakening of guidance at the Department of Housing & Urban Development prohibiting discrimination in housing against LGBT people.

“There used to be protections for LGBT people for housing under HUD, and all that was just taken away under Ben Carson, who was appointed by Trump,” Lewis said. “And that’s a big deal because it’s been my experience that it’s really difficult to find housing when you’re an LGBT person. People can be discriminatory and to have our federal government be discriminatory with federal housing, that’s not a good sign.”

In March, HUD issued two agency notices aimed at protecting LGBT people who are homeless. One sought to notify residents of HUD-funded facilities their right to be free from anti-LGBT discrimination under HUD regulations; the other announced a survey to evaluate the impact of HUD’s youth homeless prevention initiative.The underlying rule prohibiting discrimination in housing against LGBT people remains in place.

Lewis also criticized Trump for his inaction on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law. Last year, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law barring cities from enacting pro-LGBT ordinances and transgender people from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. After defeating him in the election on the promise of repeal, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a replacement to the law critics say is still discriminatory.

“My wife is from North Carolina. We go down there a lot,” Lewis said. “What has happened to transgender folks is really terrible, and we all know that, and to have the president not step in and the president really not take a stance and allow discrimination to continue really doesn’t set a [good] precedent for the rest of the country.”

Trump. during his presidential campaign, took a variety of stances on the North Carolina law, saying at first transgender people should use the restroom they think is right for them and later that he’s “with the state” on the law. Under questioning from the Washington Blade, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had no comment on the new law signed by Cooper, saying it doesn’t merit federal attention.

Asked in what contingent she’d take part in during the march, Lewis jokingly said it would be the “contingent of people who are terrified, justifiably so,” adding it would likely be with her friends. Lewis said she’ll hold up a sign on protecting LGBT rights, especially the right to marry and fair housing, and her spouse will hold up a sign reading, “Restore Justice in North Carolina.”

“I think more than anything, we’re going to bring LGBTQ communities together, which is something that really needs to happen,” Lewis said. “I went to the women’s march, I went to this march, I went to that march. I think what marches are doing now is becoming more than a one-time event. After the climate march, folks got instructions on how to go back home and organize in their community. So I’m looking forward to that for this march.”

The LGBT march is the latest in a series of marches in D.C. that started with the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration and has included the march for science, march against climate change and the tax march encouraging the president to issue his tax returns.

Chris Cormier Maggiano, a gay D.C. Democratic activist, said he sees participation in the march as the next step after taking part with his spouse, Chase Maggiano, in protests and marches nearly each week since the inauguration.

“We were able to get married in September in large part because LGBT people and our allies fought hard for decades to win the freedom to marry,” Cormier Maggiano said. “If we don’t have our voices heard now, Trump and Republicans will do…damage to our community and our families — including taking away our healthcare and gutting vital government programs. That’s why we changed our plans for a family trip to make sure we are in D.C. for the march.”

The march in D.C is but one LGBT demonstration on June 11. Other marches are planned in cities across the country ranging from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles. The annual Pride parade in Los Angeles has been converted to a “resist” march in protest of Trump.

John Fluharty, who’s gay and former chair of the Delaware Republican Party, said he’s a speaker at the event in Delaware to demonstrate Republicans can be in support of LGBT rights.

“I was a hardcore conservative growing up — I mean a hardcore conservative — so this has as much to do with authenticity on my part as it does with anything else,” Flurharty said. “There’s no reason why the Republican Party should not be pro-LGBTQ rights. There’s no reason, and the more Republicans that are engaged in these sorts of activities, the better.”

Fluharty said his remarks will focus on the importance of being authentic — even if that takes courage — as “owning who you are and being able to stand up for it and those that you love” regardless of party.

“I think it’s part of a larger narrative,” Fluharty said. “You got this going on in Wilmington. I think they’re going in a couple other cities also — sort of mini-marches. So it’s part of a large narrative. The larger narrative is intolerance, bigotry is no longer acceptable.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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