- The Magazine
Trump 2020 campaign advisor Jenna Ellis continued her habit of anti-LGBTQ comments, aiming her fire at Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who is transgender, and misgendering her in a tweet.
Commenting on a May 2020 article about an incident where Levine criticized a reporter for a right-wing talk radio station after he repeatedly called her “sir” during an on-air interview, Ellis tweeted: “This guy is making decisions about your health.”
Ellis is a senior legal advisor to the Trump campaign, and has a long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including endorsing anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy and saying higher HIV rates among gay and bisexual men was “God’s moral law.”
Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) responded to Ellis’ tweet, saying that Levine is “a world-class public health expert who has been saving countless thousands of lives. I realize you may not know what that looks like.”
Sims continued: “She’s also a hero to LGBTQ+ people like me and doesn’t deserve your scorn or mockery.”
This woman is a world-class public health expert who has been saving countless thousands of lives. I realize you may not know what that looks like. She’s also a hero to LGBTQ+ people like me and doesn’t deserve your scorn or mockery.
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) August 10, 2020
Levine, due to her public persona as the person in charge of Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has drawn the attention of anti-LGBTQ social conservatives.
A person in a dress claiming to be Dr. Levine was featured as part of the “dunk tank” at a local festival, a Pennsylvania restaurant named one of its dishes after her in a jab that made a gross reference to her genitalia, and she’s been frequently misgendered on social media with transphobic memes.
The harassment led Levine to denounce the attacks, telling her detractors that they weren’t harming her so much as “perpetuat[ing] a spirit of intolerance and discrimination” against LGTBQ Pennsylvanians, particularly transgender youth struggling with their identity.
In response, a state lawmaker who has previously called for her resignation over the slow reopening of the Pennsylvania economy then rewrote her comments to create a parody in which people who refuse to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic are victims of discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign condemned Ellis’s remarks in a statement.
“Jenna Ellis is a bigot and Dr. Levine is a patriot — plain and simple. Dr. Levine illustrates character and patriotism while Ellis cannot even define those terms. Using a person’s pronouns is a basic level of respect,” HRC President Alphonso David said.
“Despite claims of allyship, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their staff have gone out of their way to dehumanize and attack transgender and non-binary people simply for existing,” David added. “Trump and his allies have refused to acknowledge the epidemic of violence transgender and gender non-conforming people face, attempted to strip away their access to health care, and blocked these patriotic Americans from openly serving in the military.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Levine has steered Pennsylvania through this crisis leading efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and keep Pennsylvanians safe and healthy. Our nation has and should continue to laud the frontline workers and public servants confronting this pandemic, not attack them simply for living their truth.”
Ellis responded to the criticism, telling The Hill in an email that HRC “thinks it can define character and patriotism while it apparently can’t even define male and female.”
When Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel attempted to show Ellis’ hypocrisy by showing a “Trump Pride 2020” T-shirt that the campaign is selling — as part of an effort to cast itself as a defender of LGBTQ rights at home and abroad — Ellis continued to troll her critics, tweeting: “I have a lot of pride too that Donald Trump is your President! Great shirt.”
I have a lot of pride too that Donald Trump is your President! Great shirt! https://t.co/VENrkogH0d
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 10, 2020
Ellis, an evangelical Christian who often engages in outreach to social conservatives, recently told those who opposed a recent Supreme Court decision on LGBTQ workplace discrimination that they should re-double their efforts to elect Trump and ensure that the federal judiciary is stacked with socially conservative judges that will rule against LGBTQ rights.
Ellis has previously claimed that higher HIV rates among gay and bisexual men are a testament that “We cannot escape God’s moral law and His supremacy.”
She has also called the Stonewall Inn monument a “celebration of sin,” has argued in favor of conversion therapy by linking to since-debunked “reference material” that claims it is safe for those subjected to it, and argued that Christians cannot be accepting of homosexuality or equal treatment for LGBTQ people under the law, on the grounds that homosexuality is sinful, and thus, cannot be condoned.
In 2016, following the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, she penned an opinion column in which she lamented that some people began calling for greater tolerance of, or expanded rights for, LGBTQ people following the massacre.
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