First lady Melania Trump said she wanted to light up the White House in rainbow colors for LGBTQ Pride Month in June, but the plan never came to fruition at a time when Mark Meadows as chief of staff played a role in blocking any sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, according to two Republican sources familiar with her plans who spoke exclusively to the Washington Blade.
Meadows had a significant role, one Republican source said on condition of anonymity, in ensuring the Trump White House ignored Pride Month, which is why President Trump didn’t send out a tweet to recognize the annual LGBTQ celebration as he did in 2019. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Meadows weighed in specifically on shutting down the rainbow lighting proposal at the White House.
Had the first lady succeeded in lighting the White House in rainbow colors, it would have been the first time that occurred since the Obama administration lit up the building after the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage in 2015. Such a move by Trump would have symbolized a tremendous change for the Republican Party, which has a long history of animosity toward LGBTQ people.
Melania Trump ended up signaling support for the LGBTQ community months later just before the election in a video for Outspoken, the media project for Log Cabin Republicans, in contrast to Meadows, who has publicly railed against same-sex marriage and built an anti-LGBTQ record in Congress as a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Neither the White House nor the first lady’s office responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment for this article. The decision against lighting up the White House came at a time when many leaders in the LGBTQ community made the decision to cancel Pride Month parades and celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic in recognition of dangers to public health and the rising death toll worldwide.
Pride Month this year also came shortly after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which prompted greater social awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement and drew resources and activism LGBTQ advocates once expended on annual Pride celebrations.
Ironically, in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, some progressives criticized President Trump on social media for his response by sharing misleading memes on social media depicting one image of the White House lit up in rainbow colors during the Obama years, and another image of the White House darkened with no lights said to be taken at a time when Trump had retreated to a bunker. (The image of the darkened White House was later revealed to have been taken during the Obama administration.)
In the video Melania Trump made for Log Cabin Republicans just before Election Day, she insisted her husband supports gay people and blamed any perception Trump is anti-LGBTQ on the political establishment.
“I was shocked to discover that some of these powerful people have tried to paint my husband as anti-gay or against equality,” Melania Trump said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Donald loves helping people, and he loves seeing those around him and his country succeed.”
The first lady’s claims fly in the face of the Trump administration’s long list of anti-LGBTQ actions, including the transgender military ban and arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court against LGBTQ protections under federal civil rights law.
Although Trump’s supporters say he’s the first president to enter the White House in support of same-sex marriage based on remarks he made after the 2016 election saying he’s “fine” with the Supreme Court decision in favor of it, critics point out those words don’t equate to supporting marriage equality and Trump ran on opposition to same-sex marriage in 2016.
Charles Moran, managing director of Log Cabin Republicans and co-chair of the Trump Pride coalition group for Trump’s re-election campaign, deferred comment to the White House on Melania Trump’s plans for wanting to light up the building in rainbow colors.
Meadows joined the team three months before Pride Month in March 2020 to serve as chief of staff. The lighting of the White House was but one opportunity missed to recognize the LGBTQ celebration, including the absence of any recognition of Pride Month from President Trump himself.
Earlier this year, in an article on the Trump campaign’s plan to engage in unprecedented LGBTQ outreach for a Republican presidential nominee, the New York Times reported several aides suggested he send out a tweet this year recognizing June as Pride Month. That didn’t happen.
In contrast, Trump in 2019 tweeted out a message recognizing Pride Month, becoming the first Republican U.S. president to recognize the annual LGBTQ celebration. But 2019 was before Meadows came to the White House.
Before that time as a U.S. House member representing North Carolina’s 11th congressional district in Congress, Meadows was chair of the House Freedom Caucus where he built a solid record against LGBTQ rights.
Consistently receiving scores of “zero” on the Human Rights Campaign biennial congressional scorecards, Meadows cast numerous votes deemed anti-LGBTQ.
Meadows voted last year against the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in federal civil rights law, and voted in 2017 in favor of a floor amendment barring the U.S. military from paying for transition-related care for transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery.
In 2013, Meadows warned on “The Steve Deace Show” of a “constitutional crisis” if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide as it later did.
“It’s a huge invasion into state’s rights and the state definition of marriage, whether you call it traditional or natural marriage,” Meadows said. “I call it marriage, you know, it’s between one man and one woman, period.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.