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#GaysForTrump president explains why the LGBT community should vote Republican

03.07.17 at 1:58 pm ET
Peter Boykin, president of #GaysForTrump, says Donald Trump's administration is pro-LGBT. (Photo provided)

Peter Boykin, president of #GaysForTrump, says Donald Trump’s administration is pro-LGBT. (Photo provided)

The concept of being a gay Republican seems contradictory. While I understand people are more than one-issue voters, it’s impossible for me to embrace a political party that doesn’t recognize my right to marry and thinks parents should be able to send their kids to conversion therapy, which is nothing more than medical quackery. Perhaps that makes me small-minded, but I prefer to support people who aren’t hostile towards my way of life.

It’s no secret the overwhelming majority of the gay community also stands on the left side of the aisle. According to a 2016 Pew poll, 82 percent of LGB voters identify as Democrats, whereas only 18 percent say they lean right. In last year’s election, 78 percent of voters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, despite his relatively liberal stance on gay rights, drew just 14 percent of the LGBT vote. (In 2012, Mitt Romney pulled in 22 percent of the gay vote.)

One of Trump’s most prominent LGB supporters is Peter Boykin, president of #GaysforTrump. The group, which Boykin says has up to 10,000 names in its database, played a central role in organizing the pro-Trump rallies across the country last weekend.

For the most part, Boykin sounds like a typical Trump supporter. He boasts about Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border and invest heavily in infrastructure.

“[Trump] sees what I see: lots of crappy roads and poor people everywhere, really huge debts,” Boykin says. “And what do we have? A failing economy, no jobs, bad military. America has gone in very bad disrepair, yet we owe ‘craptons’ of money.”

When the topic turns to gay issues, Boykin is quick to point out Trump’s support for same-sex marriage and pledge to protect LGBT people from radical Islamic terror. He also makes sure to tell me President Barack Obama, who’s beloved in the gay community, didn’t support marriage equality when he first took office.

Though those statements are factually accurate, it’s difficult for me to consider Trump a genuine ally. He filled up his administration with a swath of social conservatives, including Vice President Mike Pence. As a congressman, Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discirmination Act and said gay couples signaled “societal collapse.” He continued his anti-LGBT streak as governor of Indiana, when he signed a religious freedom bill that would’ve allowed business to refuse to serve gay people. (He eventually changed the law’s language after immense outcry from social advocacy groups and the business community.)

Boykin recognizes Pence’s history, but says the Vice President is a changed man. He also says factions of Democrats are just as opposed to gay rights as conservatives, despite the party’s LGBT-friendly platform.

In my conversation with Boykin, we further explored the rationalization behind his Trump support. Answers are edited for brevity.

Alex Reimer: Do you think Donald Trump is an ally to the LGBT movement more so than Hillary Clinton and other Democrats?

Peter Boykin: I believe Donald Trump is the first Republican to take office that is pro-LGBT rights –– and particularly our safety. He is still going to be a little bit of the legalese and make sure things are legal. But you’re comparing him to somebody like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who in their past, especially Barack Obama when he took office, he was not for gay rights. He grew into that.

AR: But you would agree that gay rights improved dramatically under Obama’s presidency, right?

PB: Only because it was coming. Not because of him. We had very good Supreme Court decisions coming through. You had many, many court cases that went through. These things have been going on for a long time. It was because of groups like Log Cabin Republicans and stuff that worked towards those. Not because Barack Obama signed a bill. People think that the president just signs a bill and then all of a sudden he’s the one doing it all –– just like they tried to say that Trump has taken away [transgender] kids rights or whatever, just because they sent back a guideline that already a year ago was struck down, because it was already in the courts struck down while Barack Obama was in office. … All of the guidelines were already null and void. So Donald Trump said that, ‘Well, instead of just continuing on with something that was already broken anyway,’ he said, ‘We’re going to send it back to the courts and let them and states decide and continue and work towards what’s needed and to make it legal.’ The only way to do that is through the court system and state’s rights. You can’t just make things legal. It wasn’t a law.

AR: When I look at Trump, I agree with you. I think personally, Trump is pro-LGBT. He grew up in socially liberal New York, he’s stated support for gay rights personally. But it’s hard for me to consider him an ally when he supported the GOP party platform, which as you know had opposition for [same-sex marriage] …

PB: He went against that platform. When he went on that floor and said he supported LGBT rights and brought Peter Thiel out there, he went against the GOP Platform.

AR: So then what do you make of a guy like Mike Pence, who has opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, says being gay is a choice …

PB: We’ve also got Mike Pence who went on an ABC interview and said that kind of LGBT discrimination will not be happening in the Trump administration. Pence is the same guy who looked at my ‘Gays for Trump’ hashtag ‘Make America Great Again hat,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah we’re for you.’ And he was like, ‘OK,’ and he signed my hat. Regardless of what he did in the past –– people always tell me when I bring up Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s pasts, and they always say, ‘Well that’s in the past.’ I’m going to tell you the same thing. That’s in his past. He is the vice president under Trump and there’s a reason he’s doing this job. And he can change just like anybody else. I can give Hillary the benefit of the doubt, I can give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt, we can definitely give Mike Pence the benefit of the doubt.

AR: So you think Mike Pence, who admittedly has an exceptionally conservative record when it comes to gay rights issues, you think he’s totally changed?

PB: “He has a religious-based record. Liberal LGBT people usually try to put religion with anti-LGBT, and it does not always happen that way. Me and [fashion designer] Andre [Soriano] just went to Catholic mass yesterday and nobody cares. We were two gay guys in a church. They don’t care. Most people don’t care about regular LGBT anymore. Now they’re kind of getting scared about the transgender [issue].

AR: I feel like a lot of what people used to say about gay people –– we’re looking to molest your children, we’re real perverts and deviants. I feel like the stuff they used to say about us, they’re now saying about transgender people. And that’s wrong.

PB: Yeah, like ‘that man in that dress is going to want to mess with my daughter.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, they don’t care about your daughter. They don’t care about your son.’ Frankly, they just want to go use the bathroom.

AR: Exactly. So on that point, you would agree there still are a lot of prominent voices in the Republican Party that do say that kind of stuff about gay people, transgender people. So how do you align yourself with them after knowing their opposition to your personal lifestyle?

PB: Well, to tell you the truth,I can be in the Republican Party just as easily as I could be in the Democratic Party. There’s a ‘crapload’ of voices in the Democratic Party who hate gays as well.

AR: Who?

PB: We’re talking about southern Democrats, southern Christians. We’re talking about a lot of black people that are black Democrats. They cannot stand homosexuality, and they are Democrats. There’s just as many Democrats as there are Republicans that cannot stand gays.

AR: But then why is the Democratic Party platform supportive of LGBT rights and the GOP platform is not?

PB: Because they can get their vote. Then a lot of religious people just kind of stay back and they don’t say anything. They just want the vote. As long as they get their people in, they just use as a vote. That’s all they care [about]. They’re using black people for their votes, too. But people are waking up. Donald Trump was right: They’re using ya’ll as a vote.

AR: What do you think about Neil Gorsuch and other conservative justices who Trump will likely appoint to the federal courts. What do you think they’ll do when they’re faced with cases about LGBT rights? Does that worry you?

PB: No, because people always talked negatively of Justice Scalia, because he didn’t want to try the gay marriage act. But you know what? He was doing his job as a constitutionalist. … So when Donald Trump says he wants to have a justice who will dictate by the Constitution, it’s not anti-LGBT. It’s basically a justice who will do his job and be supportive of what’s in the Constitution. Period.

We can’t just send everything to the Supreme Court. We have to let state’s rights dictate things. That’s one of the reasons why the Civil War was fought –– state’s rights. Not letting the federal government dictate to every state what we’re going to do.

AR: But throughout history, a lot of civil rights progress can’t be left to the states. Look at African-American [segregation] in the 50’s and 60’s. If it weren’t for a lot of federal initiatives, who knows how long it would’ve taken in some southern states.

PB: Well, we got to the point where we got enough states on board, like we did with the gay marriage issue. … It’s just that, any time you change a law like this, it takes time. It takes time to move things. We’re talking about something that’s economic when you talk about the [transgender] bathroom issue. Some people want a separate toilet, some people say they don’t want a separate toilet because it makes them feel bad. … We have that problem. That issue will have to continue. Maybe it will take a number of generations to ease into it, just like generations eased into the gay issue. Now we have a generation where people don’t give a crap if somebody is gay or not. Maybe the next generation will be fine with transgender people. That’s the reason people are born and die. People’s ideas change. 

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