As election nears, the Trump campaign tries to court LGBTQ voters in Southwestern Pennsylvania | LGBTQ | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

As election nears, the Trump campaign tries to court LGBTQ voters in Southwestern Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump's efforts to win over the LGBTQ community are well documented, as images of him holding rainbow flags and applauding LGBTQ supporters have spread online in the media. With the election just days away, Trump is trying to woo LGBTQ voters in Southwestern Pennsylvania, a move that local LGBTQ organizations and individuals see as antithetical to his administration's efforts to whittle away their civil rights.

“If Donald Trump is to be re-elected for another term, the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights will only become more difficult,” says Duane "Naheen" Binion, co-executive director of True T Pittsburgh, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving and showcasing queer people of color.

The Trump administration has already targeted LGBTQ rights, most notably banning transgender people from serving in the military. In June, the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest pro-LGBTQ organization, listed a number of ways the Trump administration has undermined LGBTQ rights, including not supporting or reversing legislation meant to protect LGBTQ people, not only in the military but in the workplace, schools, and housing.

This is in addition to nominating what many view as anti-LGBTQ judges to the Supreme Court, refusing to grant visas for same-sex partners of diplomats and U.N. workers, and allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Binion fears that another four years under Trump would lead to a further decline in protections and resources for LGBTQ U.S. citizens, particularly those who are trans and non-binary. This includes access to specific health care, emergency shelters for homeless or at-risk individuals, financial assistance, and more.

He adds that this is compounded for the Black and Brown LGBTQ community already impacted by racism and police brutality.

“This year's presidential elections are more important than probably any other election in the history of the United States,” says Binion. “Not only are we currently living in the midst of a pandemic, but you also have these multiple tiers of oppression, racism, and bigotry that blind many of us from seeing the potential of a 'bigger picture.' Over these last four years, your President Donald Trump has not only intentionally fractured the morals and integrity of the American citizen, but he has also proven to us on a multitude of levels that there is only one group of people he thinks about when making decisions, and those are the people like him.”

The availability of federal LGBTQ rights legislation is especially crucial in Pennsylvania, which has been cited as lacking adequate LGBTQ protections at the state level.

Despite this, the Trump campaign will host a rally in Canonsburg on Nov. 1 as a last-ditch effort to court LGBTQ voters in Pennsylvania just two days before the election. The visit is part of a Pride for Trump tour meant to generate support for the incumbent in key swing states.

The president's daughter, Tiffany Trump, will appear at the rally, two weeks after speaking at a similar event in Tampa, Florida. Video of the Florida event resulted in backlash and memes criticizing Tiffany's claim that her father has “always supported” the LGBTQ community. Many pointed out that, during the rally, she also left out the “T” while using the “LGBTQIA+” acronym.

Joining Tiffany at the Canonsburg rally is former acting Director of National Intelligence Ambassador/ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. Grenell is openly gay and recently joined the Republican National Committee as a political outreach adviser focused on the LGBTQ vote.

Grenell was also the subject of local controversy when Carnegie Mellon University students, staff, and alumni criticized his appointment as a senior fellow to the school's Institute for Politics and Strategy. While Grenell was brought on to help address decriminalizing homosexuality around the globe, an open letter by the CMU Undergraduate Student Senate expressed concern over Grenell's association with apparent Islamaphobic extremist groups and his use of social media to “spread misinformation, conspiracy theories, and bad-faith arguments,” specifically in regards to documented police violence about Black Lives Matter protesters.

Despite criticism, some still believe Trump does have the community's best interests at heart and does support the rights of LGBTQ people. This includes Casey Flores, a political director for the Ohio and Pennsylvania Log Cabin Republicans, a nationwide organization whose stated mission is representing “LGBT conservatives and allies.”

Flores, who identifies as gay, claims Trump came into office “fully supporting gay marriage," launched a “global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality," and appointed Grenell as the first openly gay cabinet member.

He also compared Trump to Democratic presidential opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, who Flores says has a record of being anti-LGBTQ.

“President Trump is the most pro-gay president of our lifetime,” says Flores. “Joe Biden only supported gay marriage when it was politically convenient and has in the past called gays security risks to the United States.”

In the 1990s, Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked federal recognition of same-sex unions, and backed legislation that would cut funding for schools that taught acceptance of gay people.

Flores is also referring to a comment Biden made about discriminating against gay U.S. Civil Service and military workers in 1973. As detailed by a story published at that time by The Morning News, Biden, then a Democratic Senator from Delaware, said his “gut reaction is that they (homosexuals) are security risks,” only to add that he hadn't given the issue much thought.

Since then, it appears that Biden has changed his views, particularly while serving under President Barack Obama. In 2012, he became the first national leader to voice support for same-sex marriage. In that same year, he called discrimination against trans people “the civil rights issue of our time.”

As a result, LGBTQ groups have endorsed Biden for president, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund.

However, Binion believes that people should vote Trump out, not only for the sake of the LGBTQ community but for the sake of the entire country, which has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have already been greatly damaged by Donald Trump's ruling as President of the United States,” says Binion. “We have seen hundreds and thousands of our friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers lose their lives due to Trump's downplaying of COVID-19 just this year alone. … We have all been forced to adapt our lives and make-do around the mistakes created by our insensitive 'leader' whom still has yet to hold himself accountable.”

He expresses being tired of how the Trump administration has manipulated and played "psychological mind games" with voters, adding "this is not reality television, we the American People are not cast members of The Apprentice," referring to the NBC show Trump hosted before becoming president.

"Donald J. Trump has failed to live up to the most simple of expectations for a world leader," says Binion, "and has proven to be anything other than 'presidential.' It's time for a change."

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