The following is a guest post by Jeremy Hooper, special projects consultant at GLAAD and lead researcher on GLAAD's Trump Accountability Project.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and the religious right is once again in love. Except this time it’s not with a discriminatory cause or an unfair limitation that’s won this movement’s collective heart.
This year, it’s President Donald Trump.
While many of the movement’s loudest voices once found the thrice-married businessman to be an objectionable candidate, these same voices have now put their hesitations about his character aside in hopes that they they can use him to fulfill their decades-old vision for stalling LGBTQ progress. And as it turns out, their newly formed symbiotic relationship means President Trump is courting some of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ voices in American politics.
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Perkins, the Family Research Council president, who was at the White House for the announcement of Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, said Mr. Trump had first reached out to him when he was considering challenging President Barack Obama. Then, in early 2016, after Mr. Perkins had aligned himself with many other evangelical leaders to back Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, he received another call from Mr. Trump asking him to pay a visit.
Inside Mr. Trump’s office in Trump Tower, Mr. Perkins said, “I sat there for 20 minutes and explained to him what an evangelical is and what they believe and what they are looking for.” Mr. Trump, not usually one to sit still for very long, listened intently, Mr. Perkins added.
Mr. Perkins was invited to say a prayer at a private reception at Union Station in Washington on the night of the inauguration. Based on other encounters with politicians, he expected to have to submit his remarks in advance. But the only limit he was given from the administration was one on time. “They said, ‘You have five minutes,’” he said.
That’s right. Donald Trump has been courting Tony Perkins since the early days of his presidential campaign. That would be the same Tony Perkins who has routinely compared gay people to drug addicts, who is a staunch believer in so-called “ex-gay” therapy, and who has attacked LGBTQ people in just about any way one can imagine (and in many ways that no decent person would ever imagine). Even though some networks have stopped booking the extreme Perkins as a pundit, President Trump considers him trusted counsel. Perkins, for his part, seems smitten.
But it’s not just Perkins. The Times also quotes activists like Penny Nance, the Concerned Women For America president, who is a supporter of discredited “ex-gay” practices and who has strongly fought legislation on marriage equality, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, hate crimes, and more.
According to Nance, Trump’s agenda “lined up with what evangelicals wanted.” Considering Ms. Nance has previously signed on to an initiative that seeks God’s “healing for those who struggle with same-sex attraction” and to “replace unnatural affections,” what she sees as an alignment between the President’s agenda and her own should alarm anyone who is paying attention.
And then there’s Richard Land, who claims being gay is caused by the Devil. According to The Times, President Trump sought Mr. Land’s advice on who might want to join his administration. Keep in mind that Mr. Land is someone who has equated baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple to an African-American baker serving the KKK and who believes God is judging America because of marriage equality. None of these things were dealbreakers for a president who sees himself as a king dealmaker.
Televangelist James Robison believes gay people are “held captive” and “deceived.” He tells The Times that he has Trump’s personal cell phone (and that the President answers). Dr. James Dobson founded Focus on the Family, the LGBTQ community’s ardent opponent for decades, and he continues to vent about any pro-equality matter that comes before him. He recently blessed Vice President Pence at a private religious service for POTUS and VPOTUS held on Inauguration Day.
This latest Times report confirms precisely what many of us have been seeing though President Trump’s process of staffing up his administration. Whatever his personal waffling might be on any particular LGBTQ issue, he is strongly favoring friends, allies, advisors, employees, and court picks who are startlingly hostile to every LGBTQ advance we have made in the past two decades.
This is why we cannot take a “wait and see” approach with his new administration. What we’ve already seen in less than a month’s time tells us we must be vigilant now and always.