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First Republican primary debate to take place on Aug. 23

It remains unclear whether Donald Trump will participate



(Washington Blade photos on top row by Michael Key; screen captures on bottom row via YouTube)

The Republican National Committee will host the party’s first 2024 presidential primary debates next Wednesday, Aug. 23, in Milwaukee.

Five declared candidates have met the threshold requirements to participate: (One) 40,000 unique donors with at least 200 unique donors per state, (two) polling one percent or higher in three national polls recognized by the RNC, or in two national polls and in two polls from early voting states and (three) agreeing to support the eventual Republican nominee.

These GOP hopefuls are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who formerly served in the U.S. House of Representatives, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who formerly served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Trump administration, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a billionaire former tech mogul, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Three more — former President and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, who formerly served in the U.S. House and as governor of Indiana, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — have not yet signed loyalty pledges but otherwise will qualify.

(Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, businessman Perry Johnson, conservative talk radio host Larry Elder and former congressman Will Hurd are also in the running.)

It’s Trump’s race to lose

Just before he was handed a 13-count felony indictment on Monday, polling showed the twice impeached former president had grown his lead over DeSantis from six points in January 2023 to a whopping 38 points, while Ramaswamy trailed behind the Florida governor by just seven points and a one or two-point difference distinguished the rest of the field.

In 2015, the last time he faced a primary contest against a crowded pool of Republican hopefuls, Trump by August was leading the pack, though by a slimmer margin of 11 points. In a distant second place was Jeb Bush, who was governor of Florida from 1999-2007 and ultimately suspended his campaign after a poor showing in the South Carolina primary.

However, and despite the many scandals that roiled his insurgent campaign eight years ago, Trump had run on a populist economic platform with a relatively cohesive message stressing his business bona fides and outside-the-Beltway career as a real estate mogul.

The picture looks different now.

Should he secure the Republican nomination, Trump would square off against President Joe Biden, who already beat him in 2020.

Efforts by Trump to stay in power despite that decisive loss culminated in the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ issuance on Monday of 13 felony indictments against him for election fraud and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

“Trump and the other defendants charged in this indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” the indictment said.

The former president will now face a total of 91 charges in four separate cases that will soon be adjudicated in courtrooms from Fulton County, Ga., to New York, with the former carrying a mandatory minimum 5-year sentence — and the specter of live television coverage whose impact on the 2024 race will be difficult to forecast.

What to watch for next week

Most of Trump’s 2024 rivals reacted by coming to his defense following Monday’s news of the fourth set of indictments. Depending on whether he opts to participate in the Milwaukee debate, the other candidates may or may not take the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the former president and make the case for why they — and not he — should be nominated to take on Biden.

For instance, Christie told Fox News he is “uncomfortable” by the indictment, calling it “unnecessary,” but hedged that “we can’t normalize this conduct” by Trump and promised to call him out from the debate stage.

With such a solid lead, Trump may well skip the event despite having participated in all but one of the 12 presidential debates held between August 2015 and March 2016. Of the 17 major declared candidates, only U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) participated in all 12.  

The U.S. Supreme Court established the nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage with Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, prompting each of the GOP presidential primary candidates to go on the record with their respective positions.

A couple months later, during the Aug. 5 debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook in Cleveland, Kasich disclosed that he had recently attended a friend’s same-sex wedding, adding that “God gives me unconditional love” and therefore “I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), by contrast — who had warned Obergefell would usher in the “criminalization of Christianity” — inveighed from the debate stage against policies allowing gay and transgender service members to serve openly in the military.

Now, of course, transphobia is ascendent on the right.

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills, most targeting the transgender community, have been introduced in conservative state legislatures this year, prompting the Human Rights Campaign to declare a state of emergency for LGBTQ people in the U.S.

Experts say it’s all about keeping evangelicals voting. Whether and how the Republican Party’s embrace of anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric will be reflected on the debate stage next week remains to be seen.

2024 candidates on LGBTQ issues

The GLAAD Accountability Project details the records of each of the eight GOP hopefuls who are likely to appear on the debate stage next week. Here are some excerpts:


In March 2023, GLAAD writes, the former president “vowed to crack down on ‘transgender insanity’ and pledged to ‘revoke every Biden policy promoting the disfigurement of our youth’ at the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign. He said that he would ‘keep men out of women’s sports’ if re-elected president, after he last year misgendered transgender athlete Lia Thomas. He added: ‘I will immediately sign an executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and other racial, sexual or political content on our children.’”

Full profile here.


During an interview with Fox News in July 2022, DeSantis “lied about gender affirming care,” GLAAD notes, telling host Laura Ingraham: “They will actually take a young boy and castrate the boy. They will take a young girl and do a mastectomy, or they will sterilize her because of the gender dysphoria. There is no evidence that this is something that’s effective medical care.”

Full profile here.


In May 2023, Ramaswamy told Fox News Digital that “Target ‘spit in the face of conservatives’ in an anti-transgender attack on the retailer for selling swimwear designed to accommodate a variety of body types,” GLAAD writes.

Full profile here.


Last month, GLAAD notes, the former vice president, “as a part of his 2024 presidential bid, said that as president, he would again prohibit transgender Americans from serving in the military, as was the policy when he was vice president under Donald Trump: ‘… having transgender personnel, I believe, erodes unit cohesion in a very unique way.’”

Full profile here.


In June 2023, Haley “falsely claimed that transgender girls playing sports contribute to teenage suicide ideation,” GLAAD said, echoing previous comments in which the former South Carolina governor “said President Joe Biden’s support of transgender rights will destroy women’s sports, saying, ‘Across the sporting world, the game is being rigged against women and in favor of biological men.’”

Full profile here.


The organization notes that as governor, Christie signed bills “instituting broad new protections for trans New Jersey residents: One directing schools to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity or provide ‘reasonable alternative arrangements,’ and another prohibiting health insurers from discriminating against transgender residents.” At the same time, GLAAD highlighted that he “vetoed a bill that would have eased access to accurate birth certificates for transgender people.”

Full profile here.


GLAAD highlighted a 2010 report in Newsweek that Scott “considers homosexuality a morally wrong choice, like adultery.”

Full profile here.


In May 2023, GLAAD notes, Burgum “signed a bill into law that allows public school teachers and state government employees to ignore the pronouns their transgender students and colleagues use.”

Full profile here.



Trump picks anti-LGBTQ JD Vance as running mate

HRC, GLAAD highlight vice presidential nominee’s record



U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Donald Trump announced anti-LGBTQ U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) as his 2024 running mate in a Truth Social post on Monday.

A political neophyte who was first elected in 2022 thanks to Trump’s endorsement, Vance once compared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler, also calling him “cultural heroin” and “an opioid of the masses.”

The Ohio senator’s journey from critic to acolyte was cemented over the weekend.

After Trump walked away from an assassination attempt and both of the major candidates said it was time to turn down the rhetoric, Vance went further than many on the right and directly blamed President Joe Biden and his campaign for the gunman’s actions.

“The central premise of the Biden campaign is that President Donald Trump is an authoritarian fascist who must be stopped at all costs,” he said on X. “That rhetoric led directly to President Trump’s attempted assassination.” 

LGBTQ organizations and advocates issued statements on Monday blasting Trump’s vice president pick.

“Donald Trump has been a bully for years — and his pick of MAGA clone JD Vance is a reminder that nothing has changed. This is anything but a unity ticket,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said.

“We are not simply choosing between two campaigns. We are choosing between two fundamentally different visions of America. One, with Trump and MAGA ‘yes man’ JD Vance at the helm, where our rights and freedoms are under siege. And the other, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the way, where we are advancing toward freedom and equality for all,” she said.

“Everything is at stake and the contrast could not be clearer. We must defeat Trump, Vance, and their brand of chaos and division, and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.”

In a press release, HRC listed some of the ways in which Vance has denigrated LGBTQ people.

GLAAD, meanwhile, has a lengthy entry for Vance in the GLAAD Accountability Project. Positions, statements, and actions by Trump’s running mate that were noted by the two organizations include:

  • His endorsement of the “groomer” slur against Democrats for their support of LGBTQ people,
  • His statement “strongly disagree[ing]” that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination,
  • His opposition to the Equality Act, which would federalize and codify LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections,
  • His extreme anti-choice views, including opposition to exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape and incest and opposition to IVF,
  • His introduction of a bill to charge healthcare providers with a felony for providing medically necessary health care to transgender youth,
  • His statement that he would have voted “no” on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex couples and was supported by a dozen GOP senators,
  • His defense of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for appearing at a white supremacist conference with host Nick Fuentes, who has spread racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, and
  • His claim, a week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that Biden was risking war with Russia because President Putin doesn’t believe in trans rights.
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FBI investigates failed assassination attempt on Donald Trump

LGBTQ groups have condemned the shooting that took place in Pa.



Former President Donald Trump is shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania (Screen capture via CNN)

Authorities are investigating a failed assassination attempt against former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday in Butler, Pa., where a bullet pierced the ear of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

One attendee was killed, along with the suspected shooter. Two others were critically injured in the attack.

The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, a registered Republican from Bethel Park, Pa., who gave to Democratic donation platform ActBlue in January 2021.

“I want to thank The U.S. Secret Service, and all of law enforcement, for their rapid response on the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

Former first lady Melania Trump wrote on Sunday that “When I watched that violent bullet strike my husband, Donald, I realized my life, and Barron’s life, were on the brink of devastating change.”

“A monster who recognized my husband as an inhuman political machine attempted to ring out Donald’s passion — his laughter, ingenuity, love of music, and inspiration,” she wrote.

President Joe Biden was scheduled to receive a briefing on Sunday at the White House with homeland security and law enforcement officials while the Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee said it would be investigating the assassination attempt and had asked U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle to testify at a hearing on July 22.

“I’ve been thoroughly briefed by all the agencies in the federal government as to the situation, based on what we know now,” Biden said in remarks from Rehoboth Beach, Del., just after the assassination attempt on Saturday night.

“I have tried to get a hold of Donald,” the president said, “He’s with his doctors.” (The two would talk later on Saturday.)

“There is no place in America for this kind of violence,” Biden said. “It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow for this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.” 

“We are shocked by tonight’s apparent assassination attempt on President Trump in Pennsylvania and relieved that he is safe and in good condition,” Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran said on X.

“Our prayers are with President Trump, his family, and our country while we wait to learn further details,” he said. “We are also praying for the family of the innocent bystander who was killed. Our movement will not be deterred.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said on X, “Political violence has no place in America. The attack at today’s rally in PA is an affront to our democracy, and our thoughts are with the former president and all those affected. As a nation, we must unite to condemn political violence in all its forms.”

The National LGBTQ Task Force shared a statement on Instagram:

“Politically motivated violence is unacceptable and has no place in our democratic process. No matter our differences or disagreements, we must all be of one voice in condemning the use of violence as a political statement as we prepare for the upcoming elections.

“We understand that yesterday – and every day- so many in our communities are targeted and live in fear as the political and cultural climates become ever more hostile.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force will continue to work for the safety of our communities and policies and advocate for legislation that protects us. We hope this will motivate and energize all parties to pass federal gun safety laws.”

Congressional leaders from both parties also issued statements condemning political violence.

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Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016



Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

“On July 5, President Trump posted on Truth Social disavowing Project 2025 and officials on the campaign had been saying the same for months,” Moran added. “Those who continue to conflate that private think-tank manifesto with the official RNC Platform or the President’s own policy portfolio, Agenda 47, are knowingly deceiving voters which shows a level of desperation leading them to lie rather than dealing with the reality at hand.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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