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After taking the oath of office, President Donald J. Trump asked Americans to come together and unify in support of their country, talking in generalities about how a renewed sense of patriotism would lessen the divisions present in American society.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United State of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” Trump said. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
In the wake of Novemeber’s election, many Trump supporters have called upon those who opposed the president to put the election behind them and pledge support to the president. But Democrats and liberals are skeptical, many of them pointing to the divisive rhetoric that the president engaged in while on the campaign trail, as well as his courting and embrace of far-right figures such as incoming White House Advisor Stephen Bannon, formerly associated with Breitbart News, white supremacist David Duke, and his choice for U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
“The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity,” Trump continued. “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
LGBT groups in particular have largely marshaled their forces in preparation to fight against the incoming administration, whom they believe will be hostile to their interests. While he often tried to paint himself as a pro-LGBT candidate during the 2016 campaign, Trump has also courted anti-LGBT interests, including anti-gay pastors like Franklin Graham — who was present and lead a prayer at the inaugural ceremony — and Jerry Falwell, Jr., who was reportedly even considered for Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Education. Even prior to the inauguration, Trump was preached to by Rev. Robert Jeffress, the evangelical pastor of a Texas megachurch with a history of anti-LGBT comments.
Indeed, Trump often had a “split personality” of sorts when it came to LGBT rights during last year’s campaign. Speaking to the Values Voter Summit in Washington last year, Trump vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, telling evangelical voters that the judges he would pick would “uphold the Constitution, protect your religious liberty, and apply the law as written,” a nod to opponents of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality. But he also vowed to be a “friend” to the LGBT community following the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, where 49 people, most of them LGBT, were killed.
Trump has also issued what appear on the surface to be contradictory statements on transgender rights. He once said that Caitlyn Jenner or another transgender person would be able to use whichever restroom they wanted if they were to come to Trump Tower. However, he later campaigned on behalf of Gov. Pat McCrory and defended McCrory’s decision to sign North Carolina’s anti-LGBT HB 2 law into effect.
Other concerns for many LGBT groups include the anti-gay records of his incoming cabinet members, the “hands off” attitude he adopted when the Republican Party approved a platform espousing positions hostile to LGBT rights, and his selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as vice president, given Pence’s history of opposing equality measures.
It was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) who took the unusual step of acknowledging the various communities that had been targeted by Trump during the course of the campaign. In a jab at the incoming president, Schumer talked not of unity but referenced the divisiveness within the country, reminding people of Trump’s incendiary comments as a candidate that targeted minority groups, people of different faiths, and immigrants.
“We Americans have always been a forward-looking, problem-solving, optimistic, patriotic and decent people,” Schumer said. “Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we’re immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we’re all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country.
“[E]very day, we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution, the rule of law, equal protection for all under the law, the freedom of speech, press, religion. The things that make America, America. And we can gain strength from reading our history and listening to the voices of average Americans,” said Schumer. “They always save us in times of strife.”
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