May 31, 2019 at 3:27 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Trump recognizes Pride month, global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality
President Donald Trump has recognized June as Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For the first time in three years in office, President Trump has recognized June as LGBT Pride Month in a series tweets Friday, referencing his administration’s international initiative to decriminalize homosexuality.

“As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison or even executive individuals on the basis of sexual orientation,” Trump writes. “My administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”

The initiative Trump references is the international campaign launched by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay person in Trump administration. Grenell launched the initiative with an eye toward Iran, where the homosexuality is punishable by death.

Previously, Trump seemed unaware of the international initiative. Asked by reporters about it in the Oval Office, Trump replied, ““I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports.”

The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for background information on the tweet. The Blade has also placed a request seeking in with Grenell seeking comment.

Trump has become the first Republican president in history to recognize LGBT Pride Month. In years past, former President Barack Obama would issue a proclamation recognizing June as Pride, continuing a tradition started by former President Bill Clinton. It remains to be seen if Trump will follow up his tweet with an official Pride proclamation.

But leading to his tweet, Trump has articulated a different view on the LGBT community. Recent news items include a proposed rule gutting transgender protections at homeless shelters, a proposal seeking to abolish transgender non-discrimination protections in health care and a report the administration is poised to issue a rule allowing adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

The anti-LGBT attacks have also included a transgender military ban, policy initiatives prioritizing “religious freedom” over LGBT rights and legal briefs from the Justice Department asserting LGBT people aren’t covered under civil rights laws.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s’ record on LGBT rights when asked to square his Pride Month tweets with his ban on transgender recruits in the military, according to a White House press corps pool report.

Many LGBT rights advocates weren’t impressed with Trump’s recognition of Pride month, saying his administration’s action demonstrate his true feelings.

Among them was Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, who called the tweet “gross hypocrisy, with an emphasis on gross.”

“You can’t celebrate Pride and constantly undermine our rights — including attacking #TransHealth, discharging #TransTroops, refusing to protect LGBTQ youth, and cozying up to dictators who brutalize & marginalize LGBTQ people,” Griffin said.

Trump also recognizes Pride month shortly after coming out against the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ban to anti-LGBT discrimination. A senior administration official cited unspecified “poison pills” to the Blade in explaining Trump’s opposition to the measure.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who’s gay and chief sponsor of the Equality Act, said in a succinct statement Trump must follow up his tweet with support for the legislation.

“Nice Tweet,” Cicilline said, “Now, how about telling Mitch McConnell to bring up the Equality Act?”

Trump has a history of embracing symbols of LGBT rights without LGBT rights itself. During his 2016 presidential candidate, Trump during a campaign rally waved around an upside-down Pride flag inscribed with “LGBT with Trump.”

Not mentioned by Trump is the 50th anniversary this year of the Stonewall riots, the historic LGBT rights event upon which Pride is based. Pride celebrations have been held each year to recognize Stonewall, starting with New York City’s Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, had called on Trump to recognize both Pride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but now urged media outlets in a statement to keep Trump’s anti-LGBT record in mind.

Actions speak louder than words,” Ellis said. “This is a cheap political play and we see right through it. Your administration has attacked the rights of LGBTQ people more than 100 times. Attention media: It’s your responsibility to tell the real truth about President Donald Trump record on LGBTQ issues.” 

UPDATE: As of close of business Friday, the White House has yet to issue a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month, although proclamations were issued for National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, Great Outdoors Month, African-American Music Appreciation Month and National Ocean Month. Another proclamation recognized the 11 victims of mass shooting that day in Virginia Beach. Yet another modified the list of beneficiary developing countries under the Trade Act of 1974.


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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