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Republicans gave a prime speaking spot at their national convention to Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of televangelist Billy Graham, who proceeded to attack LGBTQ rights and urge anti-LGBTQ people to support Donald Trump.
Graham Lynch used her time to praise President Donald Trump for being a “fierce advocate” of faith in an effort to rally social conservatives around the president heading into the final three months of the election cycle.
Following in the footsteps of her grandfather and father — who has gained infamy for a variety of inflammatory anti-LGBTQ statements he’s made over the years — Graham Lynch took aim at Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s record on various LGBTQ issues during the Obama administration and cast a Biden-Harris administration as a threat to the First Amendment rights of people who oppose homosexuality, transgenderism, or same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
Graham Lynch called on devout Americans to “liv[e] out our faith in our daily lives, in our schools, in our jobs, and yes, even in the public square,” echoing the well-worn argument that a person’s individual religious or moral beliefs should take precedence over any inconvenience or discrimination directed at those who do not hold the same beliefs.
“Democrats tried to make faith organizations pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” she said, referring to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring employers to provide coverage for contraceptives (which, it should be noted on a factual basis, do not induce abortions).
Graham Lynch continued: “Democrats tried to force adoption agencies to violate their deeply held beliefs. Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girls’ sports and use girls’ locker rooms. Those are the facts. But then, we the people, elected Donald Trump.”
She then contrasted Donald Trump’s record on LGBTQ issues with that of the Obama-Biden administration, indirectly referencing to the Trump administration’s successful challenge to the birth control mandate, its defense of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, it decision to grant a waiver to allow foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex prospective parents, and reversing guidance that recommended allowing transgender youth to use restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity or to compete in sports based on their gender identity.
With respect to the last item, Graham Lynch also invoked the specter of “bathroom panic” and the frequently-cited-yet-repeatedly-dispelled myth that transgender individuals post a threat to cisgender women and children.
“People of faith suddenly had a fierce advocate in the White House,” Graham Lynch said of Trump. “He appointed judges who respect the First Amendment. He supported religious beliefs in court. He ensured religious ministries would not be forced to violate their beliefs. He withdrew the policies that placed out little girls at risk.”
She also alluded to the possibility that the political Left — which she claimed “has tried to silence” social conservatives — could one day resort to physical persecution of those with deeply-held religious beliefs.
LGBTQ groups pounced on Graham Lynch’s remarks to point out the inconsistency of Trump supporters who continue to claim that the president is one of the most “pro-gay” presidents in history.
“This convention seems to be embracing a theme of weaponizing religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Cissie Graham Lynch is sadly not alone in her bigoted, inaccurate beliefs, as the Trump Administration has been working hand-in-hand with anti-LGBTQ activists like her from day one,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
“The record is clear — from arguing all the way to the Supreme Court against LGBTQ workers and adoptive parents, to speaking out against transgender girls — Lynch and anti-LGBTQ activists like her undeniably have an ally in the Trump Administration, while LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender people, face rising numbers of policy rollbacks and growing levels of discrimination,” Ellis added.
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued a statement condemning Graham Lynch’s remarks, even though he noted that he was unsurprised she uttered them.
“We knew this rhetoric would come from allies of a President dedicated to attacking LGBTQ people at every opportunity,” David said. “What is particularly shameful is the targeting of some of the most vulnerable in our community: transgender kids. Cissie Graham Lynch’s comments were despicable and must be widely condemned by anyone who claims to be an ally of LGBTQ people. To Trump and his allies: we fight for our community and will see you at the ballot box.”
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said that Lynch’s comments and her deliberate misgendering of transgender youth were particularly reprehensible.
“Singling out transgender youth with this vicious and false attack is truly shameful, and puts some of our most vulnerable students at greater risk of violence, discrimination and self-harm,” Byard said in a statement. “It is also out of step with the courts, which have consistently affirmed the rights of transgender students. Transgender students are no different from any other youth: they only want to be accepted and supported in their school communities.”
The president’s questionable record on LGBTQ rights was underscored by the presence of other speakers, including elected officials with anti-LGBTQ records or a history of anti-LGBTQ statements. For instance, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law, passed on a partisan basis by Republicans in the state legislature, that reversed and Iowa Supreme Court decision that allowed transgender citizens on Medicaid to obtain coverage for medically necessary surgery.
Other speakers included former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who previously opposed same-sex adoption and argued in court against marriage equality; Sen. Rand Paul, who, despite claiming to be a civil libertarian, mocked President Obama’s support for LGBTQ rights by saying he couldn’t “get any gayer,” expressed support for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and who currently opposes bills seeking to codify legal protections for the LGBTQ community into law; and Vice President Mike Pence, whose record of opposing LGBTQ rights is both long and legendary.
Despite this, LGBTQ Republican groups and openly gay former Trump administration officials have claimed that Trump has been one of the most “pro-LGBTQ” presidents in history, GLAAD and other critics have sought to counter those claims, including by running an ad, airing on Fox News during the week of the Republican Convention, as well as online, that highlights Trump’s opposition to legislation that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
“Those who claim President Trump has led his party to ‘meaningful policy victories’ for LGBTQ people have a distorted view of ‘victories,’ said GLAAD’s Ellis. “The administration has deployed multiple agencies to roll back protections for LGBTQ people where we need it most.”
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