A host of anti-LGBT leaders met with President Trump on Monday afternoon to thank him for keeping his promises from 2016, including his administration’s actions against LGBT people.
The meeting at the White House coincided with Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a move long sought by social conservatives that many leaders in the international community have warned is dangerous.
At a press gaggle outside the White House after the meeting, the anti-LGBT leaders said recognizing Jerusalem is at the top of the list for which they’re thankful, but they thanked him for more than that.
Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, cited the “religious freedom” executive order signed in May, which he said amounted to “defending the rights of men and women of faith to express their faith in the public square.”
Although the order doesn’t explicitly mention LGBT issues, it led to the “religious freedom” guidance from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions observers say could allow denial of services to LGBT people.
Reed also said they thanked Trump “for sending the solicitor general to the United States Supreme Court in the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case on behalf of religious freedom.”
At the Supreme Court last week, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco voluntarily argued on behalf of a Colorado baker seeking a First Amendment right to deny wedding cakes to same-sex couples. Francisco indicated during the course of arguments a bakery should be able to put up a sign declaring it won’t make wedding cakes for same-sex couples — a position the White House says Trump shares.
Reed also commended Trump for leadership on the tax reform package, crediting him for the expanded child tax credit in the Senate bill and estimating it amounts to a $6 trillion tax cut.
“That doubling of that tax credit in the Senate bill would not have happened without his leadership, so we were here with him today to express our gratitude, to pray for him and to make it clear that our support for him is unwavering and unequivocal,” Reed said.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, was also present at the gaggle and said the leaders told Trump he’s an “anomaly” because “he keeps his promises.”
“Evangelicals, conservatives across this country are grateful for the fact he’s actually done exactly as he campaigned on,” Perkins said. “He campaigned on protecting religious freedom, he campaigned on making the military strong and reversing the radical social policies of the previous administration, he focused on making our economy strong again. In short, he’s working to make America great again despite what some might say.”
Perkins’ reference to reversing social policies in the military is likely a nod to Trump’s transgender military ban. However, the Pentagon has announced it will begin accepting transgender recruits starting Jan. 1 after multiple court orders against the policy.
James Dobson, an evangelical leader who founded Focus on the Family, an organization that backs widely discredited “ex-gay” conservation therapy, broadly thanked Trump for keeping campaign promises.
Recalling a 2015 meeting Trump held with social conservatives, Dobson said that “he won the hearts and minds of evangelical leaders” and “he has kept all the promises that he made to us.”
Others present at the gaggle were social conservative leader Gary Bauer; Paula White, a Pentecostal Christian televangelist; and Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church who led opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage in D.C.
Trump’s meeting with the anti-LGBT leaders and their praise for him is consistent with their resurgence in power in the administration. That influence has yielded to anti-LGBT policies, such as the attempted ban on transgender military service.
The leaders refused to take questions from reporters at the end of the gaggle. Some reporters shouted questions as the leaders were speaking, including inquiries on the contentious special election for a U.S. Senate in Alabama. Roy Moore is backed by conservatives, but accused of sexual misconduct. Reed mouthed “no” when asked if race came up in discussions with Trump.
Another reporter asked if U.S. recognition of Jerusalem would bring the world closer to the Christian Rapture as described in the Bible. Reed answered “no.”
The leaders didn’t respond to a shouted-out question from the Washington Blade after the gaggle on the transgender military ban.