August 9, 2017 at 2:25 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Anti-LGBT groups on rise again with Trump in White House

President Trump meets on July 10 for a prayer meeting with leaders from anti-LGBT groups. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Social conservative advocates and groups seeking to undermine LGBT rights — once thought to be waning in influence — appear to have experienced a resurgence with President Trump in the White House.

The growing power of anti-LGBT groups, such as the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, can be seen in the policies enacted by Trump against the LGBT community as well as the close interaction between social conservatives and his administration.

Prior to his August vacation, Trump announced his intent to ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” unilaterally instituting the anti-LGBT policy after the U.S. House — under Republican control, no less — rejected a narrower measure to undermine transgender service by denying military funds for transition-related health care.

Trump’s declaration came after intense lobbying by anti-LGBT lawmakers and groups, who threatened to withhold support from major defense spending legislation unless the White House acted. That bill includes funds for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement after Trump’s announcement on transgender service his organization would withdraw its opposition to border wall payments.

“Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass,” Perkins said.

Although Trump — despite entreaties from social conservatives — hasn’t signed an executive order circulating among federal agencies and advocacy groups that would enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom,” he did pen his name to a directive empowering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.

Critics say that’s a red herring that could lead the U.S. government to give the OK for discrimination among federal contractors, private employer denial of family and medical leave to same-sex couples and federal workers refusing to process paperwork for LGBT people. Sessions had already stated the directive would be based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law meant to preserve the rights of religious minorities that’s now used as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination.

It remains to be seen when the administration will issue the guidance and the nature of the policy. On his weekly radio show late last month, Perkins said action would come soon and the U.S. government will be “on notice that they have to respect religious freedom” — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

Also in line with the goals of anti-LGBT groups was the recent filing by the Justice Department asserting lesbian, gay and bisexual people have no protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights of Act. That voluntary brief rejected a growing consensus among federal district courts and the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.

Daniel Pinello, a political scientist at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is among those who say “there’s a resurgence of anti-LGBT-group influence” under the Trump administration.

“People like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council figure far more prominently in White House policy making now,” Pinello said. “Indeed, Perkins personally crafted the Republican Party’s 2016 national platform with regard to social issues. President Trump is delivering on that document’s promise through actions such as the (gestating) transgender military ban and the Justice Department’s legal brief arguing against sexual orientation discrimination’s being encompassed within the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination.”

These anti-LGBT actions would be unheard of during the Obama administration, which sought over the course of eight years to enhance LGBT rights and never acted to inhibit them (although the progress was sometimes too slow for LGBT rights supporters demanding immediate change.) To find similar anti-LGBT policy, one would have to look back to the anti-gay administration of former President George W. Bush, who used his bully pulpit to advocate for a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage.

Moreover, these anti-LGBT acts from the Trump administration subvert the will of the public at large, which consistently voices majority support for LGBT rights. On the issue of transgender military service, for example, a Quinnipiac poll earlier this month found U.S. voters say by a margin of 68–27 percent, including 55–39 percent among voters in military households, that transgender people should be allowed to serve.

Also seeing a rise in influence among anti-LGBT groups is Heidi Beirich, intelligence project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has included groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom among its list of hate groups.

“There is no question that they have access to this administration and are getting policies passed that are their preference in a way that we haven’t seen maybe ever,” Beirich said.

Invoking Trump’s own unique terminology, Beirich said, “If anybody is winning big-ly from Trump’s policies, its these folks, right? It’s the anti-LGBT hate groups and their various allies among conservatives.”

Trump enacts these policies amid a seemingly open-door rule at the White House for social conservatives with anti-LGBT records. The list is long of times when Trump welcomed them into the White House for photo opportunities and special occasions.

On May 3, the eve of the National Day of Prayer, Trump allowed into the Oval Office evangelical leaders — many of whom have anti-LGBT records — including Franklin Graham, who recently called for a boycott of the animated “Beauty and the Beast” over the inclusion of a gay character, as well as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, former Rep. Michele Bachmann and Faith & Freedom Coalition Chair Ralph Reed.

Reed, who once compared marriage equality to slavery and its opponents to abolitionists, tweeted out a photo of him with first daughter Ivanka Trump, who has professed to be an LGBT ally despite the anti-LGBT actions of her father’s administration.

“Great to be with @realDonaldTrump @IvankaTrump & VP Pence at faith advisory board meeting at the White House tonite,” Reed tweeted.

Ivanka Trump and Ralph Reed together at the White House. (Photo courtesy Twitter)

On July 10, Trump invited for a prayer session in the Oval Office many of the same people as well as Perkins and American evangelical leader Gary Bauer. Also in attendance were Skyline Church Pastor Jim Garlow, who called being LGBT a “perversity,” and Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor at the Maryland-based Hope Christian Church who attempted to stop the legalization of same-sex marriage in D.C.

These Oval Office visits say nothing about the interactions between officials within the Trump administration and anti-LGBT groups. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech to Focus on the Family upon its anniversary, Kellyanne Conway gave a speech at the Family Leader’s summit in Iowa and Sessions gave closed-door remarks to Alliance Defending Freedom.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of the LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD, has monitored the level of access these groups enjoy with Trump in the White House.

“The Trump administration’s choice to provide anti-LGBTQ activists an ‘express pass’ to the White House highlights this administration’s goal of stopping progress and rolling back LGBTQ protections,” Ellis said. “People like Tony Perkins have made careers out of making life harder for LGBTQ people and the decision to give anti-LGBTQ activists like him repeated White House access is a slap in the face to LGBTQ Americans that could have long-lasting consequences.”

What makes the rise of social conservative groups under Trump remarkable is that he wasn’t their preferred candidate for president during the 2016 Republican primary. That distinction generally belonged to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose candidacy frequently invoked fears over same-sex marriage and transgender people using the bathroom.

On the campaign trail, Trump stayed from away demonizing LGBT people, focusing instead on demonizing Muslims and immigrants while making promises to restore lost jobs in parts of the United States that haven’t adjusted after a shift from an industrial to information economy. In fact, during the general election, Trump professed to be a friend to LGBT people (although that hasn’t held up in terms of administrative policy).

Nonetheless, anti-LGBT groups rallied to Trump’s side after he claimed the Republican presidential nomination and evangelicals made up a strong percentage of his supporters. That support continued even after the release of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals — even after those same groups stoked irrational fears of transgender people in the restroom by saying it would lead to sexual assault of women.

Pinello said social conservative groups opposed to LGBT rights are close to Trump despite friction during the primary because “any president willing to do one’s bidding will suffice at the end of the day.”

“Ted Cruz supplied the brand of social-conservative policy analysis consistent with the tenets of groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. They all spoke the same language,” Pinello said. “Yet the identical organizations are happy to jettison coherent and cognizable policy in favor of preferred outcomes like the military ban and statutory-interpretation limitation. Any port in a storm.”

With public approval for Trump at an all-time low and disapproval at an all-time high, Beirich said Trump cultivates support from social conservatives because that is what remains of his voters.

“They’re a major part of his base,” Beirich said. “If he were to lose support from these folks, he would be in serious, serious trouble.”

Beirich also cited as a reason for the influence of anti-LGBT groups the presence in the White House of Pence, whom she said has been “close to these groups forever and ever and ever.”

“He passed a religious liberty law that was problematic in Indiana,” Beirich said. “He’s spoken to all these folks, he lives in their circles, and so, with support overall for Trump collapsing, he’s got to hold onto his base, and this is his base.”

The Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment for this article.

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

  • Those groups shouldn’t even bother. Gays are self-destructive enough to just destroy themselves eventually.

  • No we are not. I have never been happier or felt more complete since I came out. NJ, you have no clue to what you are talking about. What are YOU afraid of? Has a LGBTQI person ever harmed you? So why are you so adamant about disliking ( hating ? ) us? We have been around since recorded history, about 8,000 years. Haven’t destroyed ourselves yet and not going to !

    • But…but…I thought you’re TERRIFIED to come out now, with Trump in office. But you’re saying you’re happy and comfortable ? In the nightmare U.S. ?

    • And I know EVERYTHING I’m talking about. Homosexuals were once amongst the greatest in history, from DaVinci, to Francis Bacon, to Solon, to Alan Turing. Today ; reduced to self-hating fools who will surrender to Islamic punishment and their time is limited.

    • And THEN you actually celebrated the taking of the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, because gays have to support “diversity” ??? Do you know how the female hostages, theatre-goers, were tortured to death ? Admittedly they were probably mostly straight women, but do you think the jihadists let the lesbians go ?? that’s exatly why I’m telling you you’re self-destructive and you give me nothing to argue against it.

  • I know this may shock some of you and quite frankly I never thought it would come to this but I suggest arming yourself and learning to use a gun. I will not be intimidated by hate. I will not be a victim. I’m tired of talking to those who are not rational. If you come for me or my family, your aim and first shot better be on point. And I will not stop until one of us is dead.

    • You’ll be a victim. You’ll surrender to Islam real quick.

    • Incidentally, even with this administration protecting you (no Muslim attacks here since Trump took over, unlike Europe; and unlike the Pulse massacre during the Obama administration), it’s no use in the long run. You’ll still just bide your time until you can get a future administration and try to use it to import more homophobic Islam.

      • The Trump administration isn’t protecting anyone but their self-interest! The fact that we haven’t had any major attacks has nothing to do with Trump in office. It’s simply a matter of luck and what law enforcement and intelligence agencies have done! Stop pushing your agenda of deception!

        We don’t need to import homophobia, we have more than enough born and breed in America and the Trump administration is giving it new life, nurturing and promoting it!

    • Dip the bullets in pork blood if you really want to be effective.

  • None of this should be a shock to anyone. Trump made it clear that he was courting religious conservatives during his campaign including opposing the marriage equality ruling and vowing to appoint judges to overturn the decision. You can’t trust trump. He constantly flip flops for political gain. He has no scruples and will lie without reservation! I’m sure these enemies of the LGBT community has Trump’s private direct number. Tony Perkins calls him to push him to push the anti-LBGT agenda. I noted mention of Gary Bauer being invited by Trump.

    Did you know that Gary Bauer was Ronald Reagan’s public policy advisor and that he advised Reagan to ignore the AIDS crises during it’s onset? He convinced Reagan to instead tell people to change their behavior rather than seeks to identify the cause of the disease or seeks a cure.Thanks to Bauer and his cronies the AIDS crises was ignored as many people died. Bauer’s incompetence and Reagan’s inaction turn the crises into a global pandemic. It could have been mitigated but instead the each have blood on their hands!!!

    These same people are now gaining power under Trump to push a similar anit-LGBT agenda meant to destroy you NOT protect you! The sooner you accept that truth the sooner you can start fighting against it!!! We became too complacent as a community and took too much for granted. This is s wake up call to rise up and fight, fight hard rather than let it victimize you! ACT UP!

    • Gays don’t make up a complacent community. They make up a self-hating self-destructive one.

      • Well, only if they happen to be ultra-conservative, pushing a similar agenda and putting that above everything else including protecting and advancing GLBT rights!

        • They embrace their Is-LAM (how they pronounce it), that’s for sure. One of the main reasons they wanted Hillary Clinton for President.

          • You fail massively and show idiocy with that inane statement! Your Muslim boogey man tactics will NEVER work on those of us that know better! NEVER VOTE REPUBLICAN!

          • And you calling an actual Muslim jihadist planning to blow up San Francisco gay bars a “boogeyman” (as if homophobic Muslim killers don’t exist) shows you’re just living in a pretend play-world. You probably deny Muslims started a new Dachau for gay men in Chechnya too).

          • Yet no news agency has reported this grandiose claims of yours! We get enough fake news from your fake POTUS! You’ll say anything to promote your agenda!

            You’re claim is as ridiculous as Trump’s on wiretapping his tower and voter fraud! Get a life!

          • You don’t know about…which one ? San Fran or the concentration camps ? I’ll give the links.

          • Nothing happened in SF. As for Chechnya it’s your fake POTUS who failed to do anything about that including acknowledging it let alone condemning it! Trump is a failure!

          • I’ll give links. Hold on.

          • Don’t bother! I don’t want to read your right-wing propaganda!!!!

          • Gay source, Chechens planning to rid gays by start of Ramadan.

          • So what? That has nothing to do with anything that Trump is doing! That’s the FBI! I’m sure that plots happening everyday! I still will NEVER support Trump or his agenda! You can NEVER scare me into it!

          • You’re not scared. You WANTED the jihadists to achieve, and that’s why I said gays are self-destructive.

          • Not self-destructive not stupid enough to be duped into promoting your fake POTUS on the pretext of protecting ourselves from Islamic terrorist! Trump is a terrorist!

          • The Pulse Massacre. You and Hillary dancing and cheering. The Neighbors Nightclub arson. Islam again. Gay servicemen foiled that one, even though you wanted to see a thousand gays burned to death.

          • More of your BS propaganda and Trump-Style lies! You think if you say the same lie enough, it makes it true. Not going to happen!

          • Everyone here can follow the links, and see that you’re lying to them.

          • Anyone with a faction of a brain scarecrow would not fall for your scare tactics! The FAKE POTUS is a fraud and the community has enough proof of that already let alone all the harm that he will do later!

            Your Fire and Fury Fool may well get us nuked by NK with his big mouth! Terrorist know Trump is dumb enough to get people killed for them!

          • Scare tactics ? Yeah….I’m making up the Pulse massacre story. That’s just a scare tactic.

          • I never denied pulse but I don’t let it paralyze me. I see beyond that, the big picture while you just exploit it for political gain to push your agenda! Many aren’t as dumb as you think!

          • No, Pulse didn’t paralyze you, it invigorated you. You want more of that. You think people aren’t on to you ?

          • It won’t be your fake potus that prevents another pulse! He’s too busy provoking nuke attacks from NK you fool!

            Trump is our enemy not our ally as he is advised by evangelical christians who are pushing an agenda against us! I have many links to provide backing that up too you tool!!!!

          • He HAS prevented another Ptulse. In San Fran and other places. He’s not going to cowtow to Islamacists and their self-hating gay collaborators.

          • Your fake Potus has done Sch!!t to protect us from anything!! Rather he’s empowering our enemies and pushing an agenda harmful to the community such as having his AG declare that existing civil rights laws don’t protect LGBT Americans from discrimination!!!

            The FBI prevented an attack in San Francisco! Trump had NOTHING to do with it! The FBI does not even like trump since firing Comey and ignoring their intelligence on Russian hacking!

            Trump is a political terrorist!!

            The self hater is in your own mirror image!

          • NOW you’re afraid of homophobic North Korea too ? LOL. You worry about all the ‘phobes who have nothing to do with you.

          • I never brought up whether NK is homophobic or not but if you can downplay the greater nuclear concern and Trump’s incompetence in relation to it, then it just proves you’re an idiot and only exploiting the Pulse incident to manipulate people into supporting your catastrophic agenda for the GLBT community!

          • Gotta run out, I’ll be back tonight with more of the Muslim mass-murder attempts on gays just in the U.S.alone. Yes, with links. You belong in a cell, permanently, with these jihadists.

          • Of course you will since you haven’t got a life! SAD!

            I could care less. Won’t change my mind!

          • I’m not putting these links in for you. I know what YOU are. They’re for young gay guys to know who the real danger is.

          • You’re the real danger! You’re banking on scaring youth to support your agenda but we will make them wise to what you are doing! Trump’s agenda and his promotion of anti-GLBT policies to appease his christian base will prove me right!

          • Gay youth can just look up everything I’m saying re. Islam and homosexuality. They’ll see it’s incompatible and those like you want Islam to take over to see younger generations oppressed. Muslims make up a tiny percentage of the U.S. population, yet have already attempted to mass murder gays five times (only the Pulse massacre wasn’t foiled). You wanted Hillary Clinton to quadruple Muslim numbers in the U.S. so you could see more anti-gay violence. That’s why Trump is driving you up the wall: no more Pulse massacres, no bombs at childrens’ concerts in the U.S. like we see in the UK, and definitely no concentration camps like in Muslim Chechnya. Gay youth must remember they have a heritage of Alexander and Hadrian, Tchaikovsky and Bacon, Ludwig II, Yukio MIshima, Michelangelo, the Spartans and the Samurai, and do NOT have to listen to old gays who try to tell them they have to submit to anything as stupid as Is-LAM.

          • They can also easily look up the same attitude by right-wing christian leaders here, many who believe in conversion therapy. Some have already advocated capital punishment for homosexuality while others are not only happy about the Pulse incident but encourage more like it! Who are you trying to kid?

            They can also easily look up the fact that Trump has completely ignored what is happening to gay men in Chechnya and hasn’t condemned it publicly nor offered victims anmesty in America like he would persecuted christians!

          • You calling these very real murderers Muslim boogeymen is too insulting to those who’ve already died under them. As well as the Pulse victims.

          • christian conservatives are seeking to kill GLBT rights in America! They are promoting hate here and abroad against the community! As if christian haven’t murdered GLBT in the past and currently!

            Religious extremists are the issue not a particular religion!

          • The Pulse massacre was Islam. Only Muslim countries have death for gays. That’s REAL. Enough of your Christian boogeymen.

          • So? Eric Rudolph’s bombing was christian!

          • More links coming. Not Right Wing…just truth….

          • The most important things about these links is that more gay men will find out this info. We know YOU don’t care, and the Blade will hide from these stories, but..

          • Gay men already are reading them. Still doesn’t mean that Trump is doing a damn thing for them! You can’t trace anything that foils anti-GLBT attacks to Trump. He promotes GLBT oppression!

            You mentioned Chechnya which Trump won’t even talk about! He fails to deliver on protect GLBT Americans! You are simply a fear-monger and political hack!

  • This article quotes the Quinnipiac poll. Don’t believe the polls, none of them predicted Trump’s election. The polls are out of touch with America.

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