Liberals who call Donald Trump anti-gay are doing it only out of reflex, not out of any thoughtful consideration of who the man is and his record, such as it is. A reader pointed out in the comments thread here last night that Trump is the first president in US history to enter office supporting gay marriage.
Lesley Stahl: One of the groups that’s expressing fear are the LGBTQ group. You–
Donald Trump: And yet I mentioned them at the Republican National Convention. And–
Lesley Stahl: You did.
Donald Trump: Everybody said, “That was so great.” I have been, you know, I’ve been-a supporter.
Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?
Donald Trump: It– it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.
Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that–
Donald Trump: It’s done. It– you have– these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.
You know what? I’m fine with him saying that. I did not support Obergefell, I believe the legal scholars who say it’s poorly reasoned, and I would be pleased to see it overturned. But Obergefell is a decision that’s widely supported in our culture, and will be gaining higher levels of support as the elderly die. I see no reason to waste political capital attempting to reverse it. (Note well that a reversal would only mean each state gets to decide its own marriage law. Most states would pass same-sex marriage at once, and those that didn’t would get there within a decade.)
It’s far, far more sensible for a Trump administration and conservative activists to put their attention on protecting religious liberty in an Obergefell world, both through laws and by confirming judges, especially Supreme Court justices, who have a strong sense that religious schools and institutions must not be discriminated against for practicing their faith with regard to marriage, family, and sexual expression. This is where a reasonable compromise can be achieved. It’s not going to thrill either religious conservatives or LGBT activists, but it’s something we can live with. Plus, it will be a great thing if the Trump administration ends the federal government’s Title IX crusade, especially on the trans front. Those issues are the ones for conservatives to hold the new president’s feet to the fire on, not the overturning of Obergefell.
The thing to keep in mind is that with President Trump, the biggest gay rights gain in history — the constitutional right to same-sex marriage — is safe. There will almost certainly never be another US president who doesn’t affirm the right to gay marriage. If you insist on seeing Trump as anti-gay, you simply aren’t paying attention, or you’re the sort of extremist who sees failure to endorse every single thing the activist cadre demands as a sign of bigotry. In which case you’re being an unserious person, and should probably huff off to your safe space and try to come to terms with reality.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I really liked your post on Trump and the gay marriage concession. But!
Did he give too much too soon?
I do think it’d be useful to make more hay of the concession. Maybe in my ideal world he says something like this… Or I guess not my IDEAL world, but in order to make the most of the moment, a responsible Trump could say:
Look, I understand that progressives are terrified that a strong desire to overturn Obergefell will be the litmus test for judges I appoint. It won’t be. I see no progress in constantly battling back and forth on this issue. But in return for that consideration we will expect your support for judges who DO have respect for religious liberty. You think that’s bigotry, but listen: you lost. Moreover, the elements of your coalition who spent eight years calling McCain and Romney hopeless bigots should be ashamed of themselves.
I’m aiming for a compromise–a generation-long detente of live and let live on the culture war stuff. Let’s be honest: You won a good deal of the culture war. And honestly, not all of that was bad. But you went beyond victory and demanded annihilation. You aren’t going to get it. Let’s define a new normal and move on.
If you insist on digging in your heals I can’t promise I can call off the dogs. I’ll be forced to rally to the base, and that means moving the Overton window a generation in reverse on LGBT while we ignore everything else. Which includes things you care about. You and I might not agree about how to improve wages for working class people, but I am coming to the table on those issues, too. Guess what: Saying that we ought to have an increase on the marginal rate for Silicon Valley billionaires is NOT the same exact things as Stalinist Russia. People who say that are not serious. Just like people who tarred Romney and McCain and the Little Sisters of the Poor as bigots are not serious. About a week ago you thought you were walking away on all of these issues, and you were going to force it down the throats of any dissenters, but there were more dissenters than you thought. So. I can follow the Obama model and get what my coalition wants by using executive orders and stacking the courts. I would strongly prefer to find some areas where we can compromise and make progress.
But let’s be clear: this is an olive branch. Refuse it, and I will use it more conventionally, as a stick with which to beat you. Some of you deserve that and worse, but here we are. You can have your gay marriage, but a religious school ought to be able to hire people who, you know, agree with the central beliefs of the school. Using federal agencies to ram radical gender politics into local schools is nuts and I won’t stand for it. Some religious lady who bakes cakes ought not be forced to message those cakes with ideas that run counter to her beliefs. I am going to be honest here; I don’t think that a college kid wearing a sombrero is a sign of the apocalypse, and I suspect that a lot of rock-ribbed, typically Democrat leaning union guys agree with me on that. Maybe those college kids ought to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. OK. Maybe TV producers ought to clean up their language in deference to traditionally minded parents. Maybe the freaking NFL could cut back on Viagra ads so people can watch a Jets game without having to explain erectile dysfunction to their elementary school kids. Maybe there are racists in our tent right now. OK. You have some radical communists, and cynical people who support unfettered immigration because it means votes for you.
But gay marriage? I consider it law of the land, and probably a bridge too far. Certain members of my coalition think that’s nuts and are demanding radical revision. I think that’s the wrong approach, and I will continue to consider it the wrong approach until you prove me wrong. There is a chance we can work this out, but that’s not going to happen if people like Mitt Romney can’t come to the table without being equated with the KKK. You want to play ball? There is not a lot of time. I have two years until mid-terms. I need to get a lot done. I have the power to cram stuff through and I will if I have to. But there is an opportunity here. I am not the radical that you believe me to be. I am eager to prove that.
That’s different than saying hey, I guess you guys won on gay marriage so let’s move on to the next thing.
That’s really well said. I endorse it 100 percent.