Kaine and Griffin at the 2016 HRC National Dinner – Photo: Ward Morrison/Metro Weekly
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine took a brickbat to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Saturday, calling the business mogul “temperamentally unfit” to be commander-in-chief. Coming on the same weekend that Trump and his vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, spoke at the 2016 Values Voter Summit, Kaine’s speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C. provided a stark contrast between the priorities of the two camps on LGBT issues.
“I have the honor of joining Hillary Clinton on what the Human Rights Campaign has called the most ‘pro-equality ticket in history,'” said Kaine. “I hope the next ticket is even more pro-equality.
“I’ve known Hillary a long time,” he continued. “I’ve had the chance to see her up close over the course of this campaign. I’m going to tell you, she’s the real deal. She’s got the experience and the vision, the passion and compassion to make a real difference for families across the nation. And she’ll do everything she can to ensure that every LGBTQ person or family has a fair chance to achieve their dreams. That’s what she’s done for her entire career.”
Referring to Trump’s campaign website, the Virginia senator said, “Go to the position page [and] search for an LGBTQ agenda. Or maybe I can save you the time — there isn’t one. No mention. It’s invisible. It’s a non-issue. Now, if you go to the store part of his website, you will find a shirt targeted at your community asking for your money.”
Kaine quoted the American novelist Alice Walker, saying of Trump’s supposed “outreach” to LGBT voters, “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.”
On a personal note, Kaine called LGBT rights one of the pieces of “unfinished business” from his time as governor from 2006 to 2009. Kaine admitted that, in the past, he was not always an ally to the LGBT community because of his struggle to reconcile the teachings of his Catholic faith with the concept of marriage equality. But he also recounted how he was turned off by arguments that members of Virginia’s General Assembly made in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban recognition of same-sex relationships. Some wanted to make Virginia hostile to LGBT rights, said Kaine, in the hope of driving LGBT citizens out of the commonwealth, while others simply wished to appease culturally conservative voters. Their motivations were the genesis for his eventual change of heart on marriage equality.
Kaine hailed the progress made on LGBT rights, saying “the laws of the land are closer to reflecting what we know in our hearts to be true, that every American deserves dignity and respect, no matter who they are or who they love…. But that demands that we avoid complacency and that we wake up each day, committed to the self-evident truth that all people have equal worth and dignity.”
Although Kaine landed some punches against Trump, it was HRC President Chad Griffin who dealt the business mogul the toughest blows. Beginning with Trump’s first press conference following the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Griffin accused the Republican nominee of exploiting a national tragedy for political gain. Calling the Trump/Pence presidential ticket “the gravest threat our community has ever faced in a presidential election,” he offered a litany of examples in which Trump has proven hostile to the interests of the LGBT community.
“While Donald Trump has threatened to legalize Kim Davis-style discrimination from coast to coast, Hillary Clinton has made passing the Equality Act a top legislative priority,” he said. “While Donald Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of North Carolina’s HB2 and hit the campaign trail with his lapdog Governor Pat McCrory, Hillary Clinton will ensure the full force of the federal government continues fighting these unconstitutional laws. And before Donald Trump traveled to Orlando to headline an event hosted by some of the most hateful and dangerous extremists in America today, Hillary Clinton traveled to Orlando to lay flowers at Pulse, grieve with the families, and help a community heal. That’s what a president looks like.
“This moment is our moment — and we have a decision to make,” Griffin said. “Are we going to pat ourselves on the back, celebrate our victories, and trade our progress for complacency? Or, are we going to seize this moment, harness our momentum, and stand up for all the LGBTQ people who need someone to have their backs? I can tell you that right now, HRC is shifting into a higher gear and we’re answering the call on all fronts. Because this fight is about more than just passing a law or electing a president — it is about ensuring a brighter tomorrow for future generations.”