Trump Juggles Loyalties on LGBT Issues 02/24 06:13
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There was candidate Donald Trump in Colorado, waving a
rainbow flag emblazoned with a "LGBTs for Trump," a photo opportunity meant to
signal he was a new brand of Republican when it comes to protecting LGBT
Four months later, faced with a major decision point on the issue, Trump's
White House held up another slogan: defense of states' rights.
The administration's decision this week to revoke guidance on transgender
students' use of public school bathrooms was an early test of Trump's loyalties
--- between the gay and lesbian community he said he supports but largely did
not support him, and the social conservatives who helped drive his victory.
It's a tension Trump could find difficult to manage throughout his presidency,
when the hot-button social issues he worked hard to avoid during the campaign
are impossible to ignore.
"In a weird way and sometimes a clumsy way, I think President Donald Trump
is trying his best to balance issues of LGBT equality and the constituency of
evangelical Christians that helped propel him to the White House," said Gregory
T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT
conservatives. "On LGBT issues in less than a month, we have seen the president
go into two separate directions."
Late in January, the White House released a statement declaring Trump would
enforce an Obama administration order barring workplace discrimination on the
basis of sexual identity. The unusual announcement of a decision not to act ---
essentially affirming the status quo --- followed an internal debate over
revoking the order. Trump sided with LGBT activists at the urging of his
daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, both
of whom are viewed as moderating influences on the president.
This week, Ivanka Trump and Kushner were publicly silent on the transgender
The restroom decision set off tensions within the administration. Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos expressed reluctance to rescind protections for
transgender students and clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who
supported it, according to a person familiar with the conversations but not
authorized to speak publicly about internal discussions and so requested
After Wednesday's announcement, DeVos released her own statement, stressing
that the administration had a "moral obligation" to protect LGBT students,
which she said was "not only a key priority for the department, but for every
school in America." Speaking Thursday to the Conservative Political Action
Conference, she framed it as a legal matter, "a very huge example of the Obama
Trump addresses the annual gathering of conservatives Friday.
The administration painted the decision as a states' rights issue.
"We are a states' rights party," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. He
also confirmed that the timing took into account a filing deadline for a
Supreme Court case on transgender rights.
As for Trump, he said, the president "has a big heart" when it comes to
transgender children but is not going to tell schools what to do.
Deferring to the states on the restroom issue could satisfy some of Trump's
core supporters while costing him very few votes, some Trump allies say.
"Trump understands he would never have won without the strength of the
evangelical vote," said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition,
who added the policy would energize Trump's religious base.
"Those who favor liberal social policy are not likely to vote for Trump in
any case," Reed said. "The voters in the middle won't cast their ballots based
on abortion or transgender issues---they will vote on jobs, the economy and
Roughly 9 million Americans identify as LGBT, according to a study by The
Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. That number includes 150,000
transgender people ages 13 to 17.
White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said the administration did not have any
more actions or executive orders on LGBT issues planned, but gay rights
advocates says they are worried about other policies that may come from the
White House or Congress.
Human Rights Legal Director Sarah Warbelow points to efforts in Congress to
allow people with religious objections to gay marriage, for example, to deny
government or private business services to same-sex couples.
During the campaign, Trump --- who supported HIV charities and began
allowing openly gay people at his clubs decades ago --- said at an NBC town
hall that he would permit transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner to use any bathroom
she wanted. He said, "People go, they use the bathrooms that they feel is
He quickly backed off that statement, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity: "I
think that local communities and states should make the decision ... The
federal government should not be involved."
But Jenner aimed a video tweet late Thursday at the president, holding him
accountable for his campaign promise: "Well @realDonaldTrump, from one
Republican to another, this is a disaster. You made a promise to protect the
LGBTQ community. Call me."
The Trump administration directive has no immediate impact because a federal
judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama guidance in August. But in
adjusting his own position, Trump was moving toward more than his party. Polls
suggest a slim majority of Americans are squeamish about allowing transgender
public school students to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on
their birth certificates. In one, a July 2016 poll by Quinnipiac University,
people were asked specifically about the situation in public schools. Americans
said by a 56 percent to 36 percent margin that schools should not be required
to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with
their gender identity.