NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday promises made by the administration are being kept after more than one year of President Trump in the White House. In terms of anti-LGBT commitments, LGBT rights supporters are agreeing with him.
In a speech before the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, Pence gave Trump high marks for staying true to commitments made on his campaign trail.
“Because of your support in this past year, it’s been a year of action, it’s been a year of remarkable results,” Pence said. “In a word, it’s been a year of promises made, and promises kept.”
Pence didn’t broach any LGBT topics explicitly during his remarks or even commend Trump for his commitment to “religious freedom,” which is code in the circles of social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.
Instead, Pence talked about other achievements that were part of the Trump agenda, including passage of tax reform, withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord, appointing conservatives to the federal judiciary and reducing illegal crossings of the U.S. Mexico border.
“Make no mistake about it, we’re going to build that wall,” Pence declared.
On foreign policy, Pence bragged Trump has convinced allies of the United States in NATO to spend more on defense and — in a line that received perhaps the greatest applause from the CPAC crowd — touted recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Had Pence included campaign promises against LGBT rights Trump fulfilled in his office, he might have mentioned Trump undoing Obama-era guidance asserting Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
Pence could also have recalled a time on the campaign trail when Trump referred to transgender military service as “political correctness,” and mentioned Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the armed forces, which was thwarted by the federal courts.
Another possibility was the numerous times on the campaign trail Trump made a commitment to “religious freedom,” which was the precursor for an executive order directing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session to issue guidance that critics say allows anti-LGBT discrimination.
LGBT rights supporters were quick to pounce on Pence’s remarks about the achievements during the first year of the Trump administration as nothing to celebrate.
Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said both Trump and Pence “campaigned with bigotry and bluster and they are now governing that same way.”
“The consequences of Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s dangerous agenda have been dire for LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants and other marginalized communities within the United States and around the globe,” McBride said. “So if their promises were to hurt workers, bully students, discriminate against brave transgender service members, make America less safe and inflame hate, then, yes, promises kept.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the administration’s actions would only seem like accomplishments to the right-leaning group at CPAC.
“The vice president may feel like he has kept promises to his narrow sliver of ideological kindred at CPAC,” Keisling said. “But from the vantage point of trans people and our families, it has been a year of science-denying, expert-ignoring extremism. Shame on him if he is proud of the damage they’ve done and the fear they’ve laid upon transgender, immigrant, and other marginalized people — especially children — and their loved ones.”
Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal, said many of the promises Trump made were “behind closed doors to groups like CPAC,” but many of them were out in the open on the campaign trail.
“But there were other promises made out in the open – including a promise to pack the federal judiciary with ultraconservative ideologues – that President Trump is well on his way to fulfilling, thanks to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” McGowan said. “Lambda Legal understood the gravity of the threat that this administration posed to the LGBT community, and has resisted this administration’s homophobic and transphobic agenda at every turn.”
It’s only the first year of the Trump administration and more actions from the White House — either against LGBT rights or other issues – are sure to follow.
Pence alluded to more to come in his conclusion of his speech at CPAC, taking the campaign slogan from his 2016 campaign with Trump.
“We’ve accomplished much in a little more than a year, but we’ve got a lot more to do,” Pence said. “With the renewed commitment of this rising generation, with the support of strong conservative majorities in the Congress, with President Donald Trump in the White House and with God’s help, I know we will make America safe again, we will make America prosperous again, and to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.