On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee’s executive panel voted to scale back its 2020 convention proceedings due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that move, it adopted its full 2016 party platform, unaltered — including several anti-LGBTQ provisions.
That includes provisions opposing same-sex marriage, supporting religious-based discrimination of LGBTQ people, and endorsing parents who subject their children to harmful conversion therapy.
The language of the platform is jarring, because it contains condemnations of the “current administration” and “the president.” But the move to adopt the full 2016 platform is particularly notable, because it means that the priorities outlined in the platform will continue to be the party’s goals for at least another four years — even though parts of it conflict with statements made by or actions taken by the Trump administration.
Ultimately, the decision to adopt the 2016 platform was motivated by convenience, as the logistics of convening a meeting of about 5,000 delegates to Charlotte, N.C., to debate and vote on each individual plank of the platform just didn’t seem feasible amid a global pandemic.
This decision was further bolstered by the fact that the president and vice president will be giving their speeches in Jacksonville, Fla., after North Carolina officials tried to insist that the attendees of the convention practice social distancing measures to avoid exacerbating the spread of COVID-19, according to the New York Times.
But some RNC members think the 2016 platform highlights the party’s most important priorities. Melody Potter, an RNC member from West Virginia who say on the party’s platform committee four years ago, told the Times she was happy to re-adopt it.
“The 2016 platform is the best one we’ve had in 40 years, so I’m fine with renewing it and extending it to 2024,” she said. “As a matter of fact, and you can quote me on this, I think it is a ray of sunshine in this whole messy storm.”
Unfortunately, for LGBTQ people, the adoption of the 2016 platform without even the smallest of tweaks or amendments, means that many of its problematic planks — whether condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, touting the importance of protecting “religious liberty,” opposing same-sex adoption, or affirming the right of parents to enroll their children in conversion therapy — remain intact.
Giovanni Cicione, a Rhode Island delegate who was on the 2016 platform committee, and who led a faction of delegates who were trying to strip anti-LGBTQ language from the party’s platform, told the Times he believes Trump would oppose the anti-LGBTQ language contained in the platform.
“I do think it’s unfortunate that they’re not giving the party a chance to evolve its thinking on these issues,” he said. “I honestly believe that this president is probably more forward-thinking on gay rights than the party is, but I’m not sure it’s in his interest to make that public.”
But there are many Republican operatives who have argued that Trump has actually done many things to benefit the LGBTQ community. Reflecting that sentiment, the Republican National Committee released a memo on Thursday claiming that Trump has taken “unprecedented steps to protect the LGBTQ community,” citing, in particular, his policies around HIV/AIDS funding and his administration’s call for about 70 countries around the world to repeal their laws criminalizing homosexuality. That claim was ridiculed by LGBTQ activists and Democrats alike.
“While the RNC preposterously claims Trump has taken ‘unprecedented steps to protect the LGBTQ community,’ they just re-endorsed an unpopular platform that advocates overturning hard-fought LGBTQ+ rights,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
“The RNC is hallucinating and advancing misleading and disingenuous rhetoric,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Yes, Trump has taken many ‘unprecedented’ steps, but those steps have been to undermine and eliminate rights protecting LGBTQ people, not empower us.”
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