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While the stances Donald Trump holds today are far from progressive, he has been consistent in his positions and has long supported a number of measures that would make America a more fair and just place for gay people. Even as he currently runs for the Republican nomination for U.S. President, Trump has been willing to buck the conservative mainstream in support of LGBT persons, and has more than earned a second look from gay conservatives.
In 2000, Trump told The Advocate that he supported civil unions for gay couples that would extend to them virtually the same rights and protections as those enjoyed by their opposite-sex peers. While this doesn’t look astoundingly progressive from a modern viewpoint, it’s important to note that we are as far removed now from 2000 as the U.S. was from the height of the AIDS crisis then. When compared to the positions staked out by his competitors in 2000, Trump appears almost a pioneer of equality.
In that same interview, Trump also stated that amending the Civil Rights Act to include gay people would be “only fair.” This position would not only seem to indicate support for ENDA, currently stalled in Congress, but would go even further in its ambitions to provide civil equality for LGBT Americans. Trump used the same interview to say, more than a decade before its repeal, that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had “clearly failed.”
Not only has Trump offered warm words concerning gay people and policies helpful to them, but he has made a point to display equality in the running of his own enterprises. While the Trump organization has not been particularly forthcoming in answering surveys issued by the Human Rights Campaign, application materials for employment with the company have, for some time, included language affirming non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Even during this campaign, Trump has been loath to try to plump his stratospheric poll numbers by attacking the gay community. Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump expressed his displeasure with Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’ decision not to issue marriage licenses and said that, concerning marriage equality, “the decision’s been made.” He was displeased that Davis was jailed, but he made no effort to affirm her actions or to give further airtime to the narrative that Davis was some kind of martyr for religious freedom.
Despite prior positive statements, there exist concerns about Trump’s record on LGBT issues. He appears oblivious to or uninterested in the T part of the acronym and remains publicly opposed to full marriage equality.
That said, he has been a consistent — and generally supportive — voice for our community. And, far beyond passing the low bar of being amongst the most gay-friendly Republican candidates in the field, he has generally lived out a commitment to equality. Donald Trump may not be anyone’s perfect candidate, but he seems disinclined to change his views for political expediency — a definite rarity among today’s politicians — and he has a rather impressive record of at least lukewarm allyship. LGBT voters interested in a conservative candidate would do well to give Trump another look.
Timothy Rosenberger is the former Vice-Chair of the DC Federation of College Republicans and a former member of Georgetown University’s Pride Board.