September 25, 2019 at 6:49 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
LGBT groups hedge on support for Trump impeachment
Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
President Donald Trump (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

Following bombshell media reports suggesting President Trump improperly made U.S. government aid to Ukraine conditional to investigating his potential political opponent Joseph Biden, LGBT groups are hedging on calling for impeachment.

Each of the LGBT organizations contacted by the Washington Blade upon release of the White House transcript of Trump’s call — which reveals the U.S. president asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to coordinate with Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr in the investigation — stopped short of supporting outright impeachment.

Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBT Victory Fund, explained her organization’s lack of position on the issue is the result of impeachment being outside its jurisdiction.

“The work of Victory Fund is to help elect smart and qualified LGBTQ people to public office so they can determine the appropriate legislation and policies that will best advance equality for our community,” Parker said. “We strongly believe mission creep is detrimental to the effectiveness of an organization and therefore do not have an official stance on impeachment.”

That will likely be the view of many LGBT organizations on impeachment, although their donors and members of the LGBT community will likely be anxious to oust Trump, who has built an anti-LGBT record over the course of his administration, following the explosive news developments.

Parker, however, acknowledged each of the eight openly LGB members of Congress — which the Victory Fund supported in the 2018 — are on the record supporting an impeachment inquiry, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially announced Tuesday.

“We know they carefully considered their decisions and took the best interests of the LGBTQ community into account,” Parker added. “We support them.”

The eight LGB members of the U.S. House — Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Katie Hill (D-Calif.), Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) — each said they’re behind Pelosi in her impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi officially announced the House would begin its impeachment inquiry following a closed-door session with the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday.

“The president has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically,” Pelosi said. “The action of – the actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

Two LGBT organizations contacted by the Blade said they back the impeachment inquiry launched by Pelosi, but stopped short of supporting outright impeachment.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, was among those LGBT advocates expressing that view.

“We support Speaker Pelosi’s decision to initiate an impeachment inquiry based on evidence that the president may have engaged in unconstitutional self-dealing in his conversation with the President of Ukraine,” Minter said. “We support an aggressive and thorough investigation to determine whether the facts warrant impeachment.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBT Task Force, echoed the sense the impeachment inquiry as it stands is the appropriate course of action.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund is in full support of Congress doing its job and proceeding with the impeachment inquiry,” Carey said. “Our Democracy – the present and the future – depends on it. Our system of checks and balances only works if we use it.”

Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, echoed the sense of getting behind congressional action as it stands with regard to impeachment.

“The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce is glad Congress is doing its job as a co-equal branch of government, following the facts wherever they lead,” Nelson said.

Nelson also took note of Trump’s anti-LGBT record, suggesting that should be a contributing factor in removing him from office.

“The Trump administration has taken extensive and aggressive steps to harm the well-being of our community, both socially and economically — from banning our transgender service members from serving their country; to revoking non-discrimination policies for government contractors and in our education system; to removing resources that help our LGBT entrepreneurs thrive from the Small Business Administration website; to permitting faith-based discrimination in healthcare against LGBTQ Americans by the HHS; and much more,” Nelson said.

“As the business voice of the LGBT community, we know the U.S. economy cannot achieve its full potential until all American citizens are given equal treatment under the law, including the dignity of recognition and support of a president who puts the interests of all Americans first,” Nelson added.

Following a Blade interview with Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in which he said the organization is looking at impeachment and will “make a final determination in the next few days to the extent it’s something that’s germane,” the organization issued a statement generally supporting the approach in the House.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, said news developments are troubling, but made no mention of impeachment.

“The evidence in plain view raises deeply troubling questions that Donald Trump jeopardized national security to try to harm a political opponent,” Stacy said. “Protecting our democracy is critically important, and this grave issue should be fully investigated.” 

An HRC staffer said the board is coming to D.C. on Saturday for the 23rd annual national dinner and the organization believes it would be disrespectful to make a decision on impeachment without first consulting them.

Although the White House transcript indicates Trump didn’t make an investigation into Biden an explicit quid pro quo for aid, the call took place in that context.

Trump himself has acknowledged he instructed his administration to withhold support before the call, then relented afterwards.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in New York during his trip to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump explained his initial decision to withhold support to Ukraine was based on his belief other nations should pay their fair share.

“Those funds were paid,” Trump said. “They were fully paid. But my complaint has always been — and I’d withhold again, and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine. Because they’re not doing it.  Just the United States. We’re putting up the bulk of the money. And I’m asking why is that.”

It should be noted Ukraine, according to the World Bank, by itself spent 3.8 percent of its GDP in 2018 on defense, which is well above the 2 percent obligation for NATO states. In fact, Ukraine outspent on defense spending the United States, which dedicated 3.2 percent of GDP for military resources.

One idiosyncratic LGBT group, Log Cabin Republicans, stood firmly behind Trump in the aftermath of the news developments.

Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin, said his organization doesn’t support impeachment and focus instead should be on Trump’s inquiry into Biden’s alleged wrongdoing.

“We don’t support impeachment,” Moran said. “He’s caused no impeachable offenses. The deeper they investigate, the more this harms Biden with his family’s entanglements, both in Ukraine and possibly China.”

Moran noted Log Cabin’s endorsement of Trump for re-election in 2020 in the aftermath of the news developments.

LGBT groups that didn’t respond by Blade deadline on whether they support impeachment are Lambda Legal and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Time will tell whether Trump will be impeached in the House, which would make him only the third U.S. president in history with that dubious distinction. However, Trump is unlikely to face ouster if and when he’s tried in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who are standing in solidarity with him.

Moreover, although a simple majority is required for impeachment in the House, a two-thirds majority in the Senate is required for convictions, which would be a tall bar to reach even if Democrats held the majority in that chamber.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a one-time Trump critic during the 2016 Republican primary who has since become his close ally, was among those defending Trump on Twitter.

“Wow. Impeachment over this?” Graham tweeted. “What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger. Democrats have lost their minds when it comes to President @realDonaldTrump.”

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

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