Two things are true today: Donald Trump is technically the most progressive Republican president in history on LGBTQ rights, and the LGBTQ community is mostly opposed to him. That Trump holds historically liberal social views for a Republican is perhaps obscured by how quickly the country has shifted towards embracing legal protections like marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the workplace. At the same time, Trump's record of statements and actions on issues that directly impact the LGBTQ community is a mixed bag. And that conflicted message is epitomized in one of Trump's campaign tweets about protecting LGBT Americans.
UPDATE: In the latest example of Trump’s less-than-stellar record of actually advocating for the LGBTQ community, the President announced this morning, via Twitter, that transgender individuals will no longer be permitted to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military — after apparently consulting with his Generals and military experts. The announcement ironically comes on the heels of major setbacks to his presidency, from the Russia probe to the Senate’s decision on Tuesday night to reject the proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare.
While Trump likes to brag that he received a greater percentage of African-American votes than 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the reverse is true for LGBTQ voters. In fact, Trump received just 14 percent of the vote from that demographic, to Hillary Clinton's 78 percent. Comparatively, Romney garnered 22 percent to Barack Obama's 76 percent. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential candidate, had the best Republican performance with LGBTQ voters, getting 27 percent of their vote. Of course, back in 2008, even Obama, the Democratic nominee, had stated his public opposition to same-sex marriage, which again demonstrates just how much America has changed its mind on this issue in eight short years.
During the summer of the 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted this:
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
Trump appears to be referencing the mass shooting at an Orlando night club, in terms of his "fight" as opposed to his claim that Secretary Clinton would welcome "people that will threaten" the LGBTQ community. To Trump's mind, barring the entry of Muslim immigrants and refugees is an LGBTQ protection, as certain interpretations of Islam practiced in some parts of the Middle East are hostile and even violent towards homosexuals.
Of course, Trump's tweet leaves out the fact that Clinton specifically, and Democrats in general, are exponentially more in favor and supportive of LGBTQ rights than the traditional Republican party. The 2016 Democratic party platform explicitly supported same-sex marriage, rejected laws protecting religious freedoms that they view as a veil to hide anti-gay discrimination, and pledged to promote equal rights around the world.
It's worthwhile to point out that Trump's expression of thanks to the "LGBT community" is impossible to imagine from many other prominent Republicans. For instance, it's difficult to fathom a scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence would break with his ultra-conservative brand by publicly embracing anything LGBTQ-related.
Why a prominent LGBT rights group sees hope and “tremendous opportunity” in Donald Trump https://t.co/5ddgwmUWHQ— Quartz (@qz) February 22, 2017
Unlike many other Republican nominees, Trump seemed fine with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. He donated to AIDS charities in the 1980s and 1990s, and in 2000, Trump supported the idea of a ban on business discrimination against anyone based on their sexual orientation. He waved a rainbow flag at one of his campaign events, and approved of Peter Thiel speaking at the Republican National Convention, where Thiel proclaimed "I am proud to be gay." That was a GOP convention first.
At the same time, just yesterday the Trump administration announced it was doing away with federal protections for transgender students. Adding to the confusion was the report that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wanted to keep those protections in place, and had her views overrun by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, apparently, Trump himself. The new guidelines state that all students have the right to "learn and thrive in a safe environment." Sessions and other supporters of rescinding the previous Obama directive argue that the decision about how to offer said "safe" learning environment should be left at the district and state level.
The truth in Trump's tweet is that, compared to most other Republicans, he is indeed far more of supportive of the LGBTQ community. The lie is that he would be more willing and ready to "fight" for their rights than Clinton.