Another week, another protest against the president. Russian hookers and pathetic attempts at infrastructure week aside, the never-ending cavalcade of self-aggrandizement has to be the most annoying feature of Trump’s America. To be fair, some of the protests so far have had honest grounding in Trump’s behavior and record. One could argue that the Women’s March held weight thanks to Trump’s disdainful rhetoric about women or that the People’s Climate March was necessary because Trump had called anthropogenic climate change a concept “created by and for the Chinese” as recently as 2012. But the upcoming LGBTQ+ Equality March has little to no basis in reality.
At the beginning of the century, Hillary Clinton was proudly declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman on the Senate floor while Barack Obama was doing so in the pages of The Audacity of Hope. Donald Trump did the same in a 2000 interview with The Advocate, but he also called for the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a “strong domestic-partnership law that guarantees gay people the same legal protections and rights as married people.”
From his days of publicly supporting AIDS foundations in the ’80s through decades of promoting openly gay staffers through the Trump Organization, Trump has continually reflected cosmopolitan and libertarian sensibilities about LGBTQ+ rights. Yet while Clinton and Obama “evolved” on the issue of gay marriage, the media has branded Trump as “flip-flop[ping].” (Trump announced that he was “fine with” same-sex marriage immediately after winning the presidency.)
Despite criticism from both sides, Trump largely stood by his “New York values” throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, paying just enough lip service to the evangelical Right to cement his working-class base while still emerging above the Republican field in condemning North Carolina’s practically unnecessary “bathroom bill.” His Department of Justice did not withdraw the Obama administration’s lawsuit against the state until the North Carolina legislature replaced it. Trump’s religious-liberty executive order was nominal at best. And between the platforming of Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention, who famously announced, “I am proud to be gay, I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all, I am proud to be an American,” and the tapping of the openly gay Richard Grenell as the U.S. ambassador to NATO, the LGBTQ+ community has had more representation thanks to the Trump administration than any other American presidency, save for maybe that of Obama.
Americans have the right to peacefully protest for whatever they want, but what does anyone honestly want out of the Equality March? For all the fearmongering about the vice president, Pence has not even come close to social policy. Much to the dismay of many in his own party, Trump will not touch marriage equality and has taken a relatively neutral stance on trans rights. For the libertarian-minded, Trump’s ambivalence is an incredible step in the right direction.
So what? What now? With a president who openly condemns his Justice Department, contradicts his communications team, and cannot pass meaningful legislation, how is the most progressive Republican president on LGBTQ+ issues worthy of protest?
Because this is not an LGBTQ+ march. It’s an intersectional one. Just listen to the organizers:
We will use the Equality March, and sister events across the country, to give voice to our concerns, and to support, uplift, and bring attention to those in our communities who are targeted due to immigration status, ethnicity, religion, skin color, gender, and disability. We affirm and celebrate that we are a mix of diverse communities. Lack of unity has caused many of our needs to be neglected or ignored. But now, for 2017 and beyond, we are working to learn from our prior mistakes and come together through common belief in inalienable human rights and dignity for all.
Under a century ago, any homosexual activity was essentially illegal. Today, a gay couple can marry and adopt children in all 50 states. As far as progress goes, the LGBTQ+ community does not have many “prior mistakes” of activism to lament.
How is the most progressive Republican president on LGBTQ+ issues worthy of protest?
The LGBTQ+ community has had legitimate grievances with unfair legal treatment, and yes, on a social level, still more progress can be made. But cancelling L.A. Pride in West Hollywood (full disclosure: I’ve been, multiple times, and it’s a blast) in favor of a protest does nothing except rob the LGBTQ+ community of their greatest asset: subversion and culture, replaced with anger and identity politics.
There was no Equality March in 2004, when Senator Clinton affirmed marriage was between a man and a woman. There was no Equality March in 2008, when Senator Obama affirmed marriage was between a man and a woman. There was no Equality March 2010, when President Obama affirmed marriage was between a man and a woman. It’s worth asking again, what are you really marching for this time?
— Tiana Lowe is an editorial intern at National Review.