(UPDATE September 2016) This piece was written prior to Donald Trump’s many policy announcements attacking LGBT rights.
Despite once holding the moderate stances detailed below, Trump now plans to repeal Barack Obama’s executive orders on LGBT rights and sign the First Amendment Defence Act, legalising all discrimination against LGBT people.
He plans to appoint justices to overturn equal marriage, and he is now surrounded by some of the Republican Party most extreme opponents of LGBT rights, who would doubtless pursue their own agenda.
While this piece was factually correct in all its statements at the time it was written, Mr Trump has comprehensively disproven any suggestion he would be a pro-gay choice for President. Donald Trump has made clear that as President he would attack LGBT rights.
Given the above, I do not believe supporters of LGBT rights should in good faith vote for him, and I absolutely do not support the use of this piece to justify any pro-Trump LGBT narrative.
Donald Trump started out his Presidential campaign decidedly on the wrong foot: but could he become a rallying point for pro-gay Republicans?
There’s certainly no shortage of Republicans running to be President of the United States, with (deep breath) Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and Scott Walker all in the running.
Indeed, there’s so many running that broadcasters are struggling to decide who to let on stage at debates, as the 17-way attention seeking contest leaves most vying for just a few moments of airtime.
But there’s still plenty of room for a pro-gay candidate. Of the seventeen, not one has dared to openly endorse equal marriage, and not one supports LGBT anti-discrimination laws.
As Donald Trump makes waves in opinion polls and the media with his outlandish campaign… could that be about to change?
Once considered a joke candidate, the Apprentice star and billionaire businessman has proved to be a serious threat – unafraid to stray from Republican grandees by slinging insults at everyone from Mexicans to John McCain.
But amid a catastrophic campaign, Trump is positioning himself for the mindset of November 2016 in a way that few of his opponents are doing: he’s evolving himself on gay rights.
As with most Republicans, LGBT issues have been a constant bugbear in Trump’s early campaign, with the thrice-married Republican floundering when asked how he could possibly believe in ‘traditional’ marriage.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, though, Trump has signalled a monumental shift – and in doing so possibly out-manoeuvred nearly all his opponents.
Admitting to attending a “great” same-sex wedding himself, he added: “Some people have hopes of passing amendments, but it’s not going to happen… Anybody that’s making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it.”
He also broke from the field to claim that employees should not be sacked based on sexuality – at a time when not a single Republican congressman has backed a proposed Equality Act outlawing anti-LGBT discrimination.
Should companies be able to fire employees simply due to their sexuality? “I don’t think it should be a reason, no”, he replied. Simple as that, Republicans.
Despite a haphazard campaign on many fronts, Trump’s masterful footwork on LGBT issues lines him up with the electorate of polling day 2016, for whom opposing LGBT equality laws has fallen out of favour, and same-sex marriage is a non-issue.
It also lines him up to sweep the support of gay conservatives: those who would never vote for Hillary, but would have issues voting for some of the Republicans who have publicly pledged to attack their rights.
He’s more pragmatic than he gets credit for, too: a lesser candidate would struggle to keep Sarah Palin on side while making so many pro-gay statements, but the pair’s public love-in is already sparking VP rumours. As the 17 candidates are weeded down to the few contenders, Trump can and will swing in any direction to challenge his opposition. He can play the Tea Party fanatic just as well as the pro-equality businessman.
Republicans may be treating Donald Trump like the ‘lunatic in control of the asylum’, who is edging out their other, more favoured lunatics… but he’s come out ahead of the pack on same-sex marriage, and he’s come out of the pack on LGBT employment protections.
And there’s a very real chance he could be the only Republican in the race who will be able to say both those things with integrity in a year’s time, when it actually matters.