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LGBTQ for Trump? Log Cabin Republican support shows gay Americans aren’t a monolith

The Log Cabin Republicans have made an about-face on President Donald Trump.
The Log Cabin Republicans have made an about-face on President Donald Trump. 2017 Associated Press file photo

Log Cabin Republicans, the largest conservative LGBT group in the U.S., endorsed President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.

If the notion left you scratching your head, you’ll understand why even some Log Cabin board members like Jennifer Horn voted against the endorsement and then quickly resigned after it.

It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that the group refused to endorse Trump on grounds that he “surrounded himself with senior advisers with a record of opposing LGBTQ equality, and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called ‘First Amendment Defense Act.’”

They’ve apparently gotten over that slight.

In an Aug. 15 Washington Post op-ed, the group’s leaders Robert Kabel and Jill Homan threw their support behind the president, citing his “bold actions that benefit the LGBTQ community” like committing to ending HIV/AIDS, advocating for LGBTQ rights abroad and picking LGBTQ nominees like Richard Grinnell, Trump’s ambassador to Germany.

But many people I spoke to said the endorsement just doesn’t make sense.

“That’s very bizarre,” said Larry Scott-Walker, executive director of Thrive Support Services, a nonprofit that provides support for people living with HIV.

Coming on the heels of “the recent anniversary of the Stonewall riots and seeing how Trump has not been a friend to the LGBTQ community, especially the trans community,” Scott-Walker said, “it adds insult to injury.”

He points to the president’s anti-LGBT record that includes banning transgender people from the military, and using “religious freedom” as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans in the workplace.

“He’s just antithetical to everything we stand for,” Scott-Walker said.

Ali Aslam, who teaches politics at Massachusetts’ Mount Holyoke College, said the endorsement shows how candidates can mobilize different aspects of voter identity.

“While it would seem counterintuitive that an LGBTQ organization would endorse Trump, the overrepresentation of upper-income, white males among their ranks likely explains more of their decision-making and affinity for the president,” Aslam said. “Along with evangelical voters, this is another example of how members of Trump’s coalition are willing to overlook what they don’t like about him or his policies so long as he delivers on other parts of their interests.”

Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University and author of the upcoming book “Identity Politics in the United States,” said the endorsement doesn’t necessarily mean that Log Cabin Republicans are voting against themselves.

“That oversimplification rests on the assumption that the LGBTQ community is monolithic,” she said. “Indeed the very formation of the Log Cabin Republicans was built on a deliberate effort to reject the notion that conservatism was incompatible with LGBT identity.”

In this rapidly changing political climate, Brown-Dean said, we have to question how we define “self-interest” and who gets to set those parameters.

Understanding identity politics requires a recognition that there are meaningful differences in ideology, policy priorities, class status, racial and ethnic proximity, and partisanship that exist within communities, she said.

“Consider, for example, rural communities who may vote Republican in spite of how they have benefited from government-backed farm subsidies. It’s important for us to evaluate how individual voters navigate being members of multiple communities at once. That’s a challenge we all face, but it’s heightened for members of groups that are underrepresented in politics.”

Log Cabin Republican leadership claims the LGBTQ community has benefited big time from Trump administration actions, including tax cuts and foreign policy.

Others in the LGBTQ community say the policy decisions by the administration that harm their community far outweigh the good.

Atlanta’s Melanie Thompson, who has spent the past 30 years caring for people living with HIV and trying to prevent its spread, said the endorsement proves Log Cabin Republicans simply will not stand up for the LGBTQ community against this administration.

“This follows Trump’s Health and Human Services Department’s May rule that would remove nondiscrimination protections in health care for trans people under the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “This does not even account for the irreparable harm that will be done to LGBTQ individuals, especially those with HIV, if the Justice Department is successful in striking down the entire ACA, as they are attempting to do.”

Jim Farmer, director of Out On Film, Atlanta’s LGBTQ film festival, agreed.

“It is my belief that this administration freely and quite openly promotes homophobia,” he said.

Make no mistake, she said: The community appreciates the administration’s plan to end the HIV epidemic and the investment of money, however small, proposed so far.

But saying that the Trump administration supports LGBTQ people is fake news to her.

“The hypocrisy of this administration is simply undeniable,” Thompson said. “Those of us working in the trenches, and people living with HIV, know that there can be no end to this epidemic while Trump policies underwrite stigma and discrimination, restrict access to health care, reinforce racism and erode the economic and social well-being of all Americans, especially minorities.”