White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that Donald Trump has a "great record when it comes to the LGBTQ community."
Chris Johnson, chief political and White House reporter for the Washington Blade, asked McEnany if Trump would reconsider the ban on transgender people in the military after 116 Democratic House lawmakers sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr calling for the Pentagon to end the policy.
McEnany responded, "I haven't talked to him about that specific policy, but this president is proud that, in 2019, we launched a global initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality throughout the world. He has a great record when it comes to the LGBT community. The Trump administration eased a ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and he launched a plan to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. So we're very proud of our achievements."
During Trump's presidency, he has made 153 attacks against the LGBTQ community, according to GLAAD's Trump Accountability Project. In addition to a ban on transgender people in the military, which LGBTQ groups say is essentially "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for transgender people, the Trump administration has either gutted or moved forward with plans to roll back numerous Obama-era protections for transgender people. These include safeguards for homeless transgender people at single-sex shelters, transgender students, and transgender patients.
The administration also wants to reverse Obama-era anti-discrimination requirements across nine separate federal agencies for religious organizations that receive taxpayer funds. It proposed a rule that allows hundreds of thousands of contractors and subcontractors to enjoy broad religious exemptions that could result in discrimination against those businesses' LGBTQ employees. Trump is also in the process of trying to remove Department of Health and Human Services language from the Obama administration that protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in grant programs, including in foster care and adoption programs.
People appointed by Trump have often brazenly expressed anti-LGBTQ views in a way that has made their coworkers uncomfortable. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reportedly made transphobic comments in front of agency staffers last year. Staffers at the U.S. Agency for International Development have said that the presence of three anti-LGBTQ Trump appointees has created a hostile work environment. One of those appointees, Merritt Corrigan, once tweeted, "Our homo-empire couldn't tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda."
McEnany defended Trump's record on LGBTQ rights by mentioning many of the same examples cited in a post published by the Republican National Committee in June on its website, claiming Trump "has taken unprecedented steps" to help the LGBTQ community. The committee has left its party platform for the upcoming election unchanged from 2016, despite it being called the "most anti-LGBT platform" in the party's history by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that represents LGBTQ conservatives, when it was first introduced.
Despite McEnany's attempt to move on to another question, Johnson continued to ask McEnany about the ban.
"But nonetheless the ban on transgender people in the military is still in place," Johnson interjected.
He mentioned the Supreme Court ruling last month that held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on sex, also prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people. Johnson also cited a 2019 Gallup poll that found that 71% of Americans favored having openly transgender people serve in the military and asked why the administration is keeping the ban in place.
McEnany responded, "I have no updates for you, but several of the events that you cited, like the Supreme Court ruling, I would refer you back to Justice Kavanaugh, who said, 'We are judges. We are not members of Congress. Instead of a hard-earned victory won through the democratic process, today's victory is brought about by judicial dictate,' so we'll always stand on the side of correct statutory interpretation."
After the Supreme Court ruling in June, Trump said, "They ruled and we live with the decision."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.