Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2020 / 12:30 pm (CNA).-
After President Trump welcomed an endorsement as “the most pro-gay president in American history,” some of the president’s Catholic supporters have disputed the label.
The pro-LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans tweeted a video on Wednesday morning calling Trump “the most pro-gay president in American history,” to which Trump responded on Twitter that night, “My great honor!!!”
Trump’s son Eric called the video endorsement “beautiful,” and he was retweeted by White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.
Reached by CNA for comment, the Trump campaign did not respond by press time. But Alfonso Aguilar, a member of the Catholics for Trump advisory board, told CNA that Trump was not endorsing every single position of the Log Cabin Republicans with his Wednesday tweet.
“As an orthodox Catholic, I just don’t see any problem with it,” Aguilar said. “Catholics are not anti-gay. We understand the dignity of every human person, and everyone, including LGBT people, are created in the image of Our Lord.”
Catholics “must understand that this president has been very strong on conscience protections and on religious freedom,” Aguilar said, including the religious freedom of business owners—such as photographers and bakers—to conscientiously decline to serve same-sex weddings.
The administration sided with Christian cake-maker Jack Phillips in his case at the Supreme Court against a mandate that he serve a same-sex wedding; the Justice Department argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that “[f]orcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights” in an unconstitutional way.
The Log Cabin Republicans ad noted that Trump is “the first president in American history to be pro-gay marriage from his first day in office.”
But Presidential nominee Joe Biden, Aguilar said, is “one of the biggest proponents of the radical LGBT agenda.”
While Trump opposed the criminalization of homosexuality in his 2019 speech at the UN General Assembly, President Obama said at the UN in 2011 that “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2011 that the administration “defends the rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a foreign policy priority.”
President Barack Obama’s administration created the position of special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons, at the State Department–a position Biden has promised to fill again.
In a statement to CNA on Friday, Fr. Frank Pavone—a former advisory member of Catholics for Trump and co-chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump—pointed out that as president, Trump has advanced many policies that are not in support of the “LGBT agenda.”
“Of course, those who promote an LGBT agenda find a far warmer welcome in the Democrat party at every level of government,” Pavone told CNA on Friday.
He pointed to actions that the Trump administration has taken to protect the religious freedom of churches and faith-based organizations from anti-discrimination ordinances.
In June, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services removed broad Obama-era language that defined “sex discrimination” in health care to include discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity–thus requiring certain procedures such as abortion and gender-transition surgeries to be performed upon request.
The new HHS rule removed the broad definition just days before the Supreme Court expanded the definition of sex discrimination in the Bostock decision, extending federal civil rights protections to sexual orientation and gender identity. A federal judge on Monday put a temporary halt on implementation of the new HHS rule.
Pavone also pointed out that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, while vice president, officiated a same-sex wedding in 2016–an act that has “far more significance” than Trump having hold a rainbow flag onstage at a campaign rally in 2016.
Trump’s administration also opposes the Equality Act, which the U.S. bishops’ conference has also opposed but which Biden supports. The administration said in 2019 that the bill, passed by the House, was “filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.” The act would codify broad anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Pavone previously held official positions in the Trump campaign’s outreach to Catholic and pro-life voters, but told CNA recently that he resigned the positions on the instruction of “the competent ecclesiastical authority”; priests need to obtain the permission of their bishop to “have an active part in political parties,” according to canon law.