Kayleigh McEnany, the longtime Donald Trump supporter and campaign surrogate who was recently appointed as the president’s fourth press secretary, is being criticized by LGBTQ advocates for a history of anti-LGBTQ statements and rhetoric.
McEnany replaces Stephanie Grisham, who never held a press briefing during her short eight-month stint as press secretary. Grisham will return to her old position as First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
McEnany, who previously served as the spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, rose to prominence during the 2016 election, when she would frequently, as a CNN commentator, defend Trump and his political decisions.
Her steadfast loyalty was ultimately rewarded when she was named to her position at the RNC, and was seen by many observers as a sign of Trump’s successful takeover of the Republican Party and his efforts to bring the party’s platform and policies into alignment with his own views.
In a tweet, the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD criticized McEnany for what it called a “history of anti-LGBTQ statements.”
“Throughout her career, Kayleigh McEnany has used her role as a commentator to attack LGBTQ people through the press,” GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “Whether it be her opposition to marriage equality or her attacks on transgender people, McEnany has shown that she knows how to, and even enjoys, using the media to spread dangerous, anti-LGBTQ messages to wide audiences. Unfortunately, in her new role as Press Secretary, she will have the power to continue doing so, but now with the White House name attached to hers.”
Historically, much of McEnany’s opposition to the LGBTQ community has been rooted in, and couched in terms that express, an ideological devotion to states’ rights.
In April 2015, McEnany argued in a column for the Political Prospect that the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn various state bans on same-sex marriage, dismissing concerns over whether such bans were discriminatory or unconstitutional as “farcical blabber.”
McEnany would later argue, in a televised appearance, that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case overturning those bans was a threat to religious liberty, and praised former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the case in a Twitter post.
McEnany has aimed most of her anti-LGBTQ rhetoric specifically at the transgender community, arguing that allowing trans people to use bathrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity would lead to an increase in voyeurism and assaults against women.
She has often relied on arguments invoking “bathroom panic,” a commonly-used conservative trope that casts transgender individuals who wish to use female-designated spaces as predators.
McEnany has appeared on a radio show hosted by Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, along with a co-founder of Equipped to Love, an “ex-gay” group that opposed a California law seeking to ban conversion therapy by declaring it a form of fraud.
She defended Vice President Mike Pence, insisting that the former Indiana governor “loves all people” in order to deflect from concerns about his record on LGBTQ issues.
She has also criticized modern feminism, saying in a 2013 column that allowing women in active combat was social engineering to carry out a “radical agenda” pushed by feminists, arguing that female soldiers were not equipped to handle the physical rigors of combat, and their inclusion would inevitably lead to a softening of physical fitness standards for America’s military. In that same article, she criticized award shows, claiming Hollywood was trying to “ban gender-based awards.”
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