Anti-LGBTQ+ Candidates Set Sights on the White House From Rubbing Elbows With Hate Groups to Targeting Trans Youth and People Living With HIV, Get Up to Speed on These Extremists’ Dangerous and Abhorrent Records

The presidential candidates on the far right are failing to learn from obvious mistakes.

Given last year’s defeat of extremists politicians across the country, any logical rearview reflection by those entering next year’s presidential race would convey a need to dial back on anti-choice, anti-Black, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. However, six months ahead of the Iowa caucuses, far right candidates have returned, swinging back harder, sowing fear and division in order to animate the most extreme elements of their base.

So far in 2023, over 570 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed in statehouses nationwide, with 80 of them now enacted into law. When coupling these unprecedented threats with anti-LGBTQ+ attacks from Congress and vows from presidential candidates to get these efforts across the finish line, there is simply far too much at stake for any of us to sit on the sidelines in the coming election.

So, to arm yourself with what you need to know in the lead up to November 2024, HRC is providing highlights of the anti-LGBTQ+ records of the major August 23 debate-stage qualifiers who are looking to dismantle our community’s hard -fought progress. Notably, many of these candidates have similarly dangerous records on reproductive rights, racial justice, immigrant rights, gun safety and so much more.

Donald Trump

Even though a majority of Americans rejected the former Divider-in-Chief’s rhetoric twice, the most anti-LGBTQ+ president in history is at it again in his third bid to reclaim the White House. Trump’s Timeline of Hate goes back to his very first day in office, when all LGBTQ+ mentions were removed from the White House website, followed by targeted attacks on transgender Americans in the months after. His bans on transgender service members and those living with HIV were among those that were especially cruel.

Trump appointed judges with alarming anti-LGBTQ+ records to every level of the judicial system, including anti-equality Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The culture of hatred Trump spearheaded was also fostered within the administration. According to Politico: “[The Trump administration] fostered a climate where six staffers who are LGBT described removing their wedding rings before coming to work in the morning, taking down photos of their partners and families or ultimately finding new jobs further away from certain political appointees. They did not want to be identified; two said they feared being reassigned for being gay.”

Ron DeSantis

Rising to the Florida governorship as a desperate Trump imitator and wannabe, DeSantis is dangerously out of step with the average Americans’ views on freedom and equality. Proving that he will go above and beyond to punish anyone he considers a political threat, even vulnerable youth and their families, this presidential candidate has used the levers of government to silence and terrify countless families in his state.

These attacks include Florida’s “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” law and its recent expansion, impacting LGBTQ+ youth and educators and creating unsafe, unwelcoming school environments, along with bans on gender-affirming care for transgender young people and adults on Medicaid in the state. The most recent ban will give Florida the unprecedented ability to strip parental rights from parents who support their transgender children.

In addition to weaponizing state agencies to attack drag performances and denying mental health funding for Pulse victims, DeSantis has been boastful of his open display of bigotry and animus toward our community on social media. Last year, the governor’s main spokesperson also suggested that those who oppose his anti-LGBTQ+ policies are “groomers.”

Mike Pence

It’s arguable that Mike Pence has perhaps the longest-running record of fanning the flames of anti-LGBTQ+ hate more than any other candidate this year. As vice president to Trump, Pence repeatedly rubbed elbows with anti-LGBTQ+ organizations classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He spoke at an event hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, where he defended his wife’s decision to teach at a school that discriminates against LGBTQ+ students and teachers. Along with former President Trump, he also hosted a dinner for anti-LGBTQ+ advocates that included evangelist Franklin Graham, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson, and Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed among others.

In 2017, reports surfaced that then-President Trump joked about Mike Pence wanting to execute gay people, saying “Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!”

As governor of Indiana, he also signed a religious freedom bill allowing anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and instituted cuts to public health funding that triggered the worst outbreak of HIV and AIDS in the state’s history.

Nikki Haley

Not only does the former South Carolina governor openly misgender transgender people on the campaign stage, but she has also made the false claim that teenage girls contemplate suicide because of transgender-inclusive locker rooms. Her dangerous statements went far enough to earn the correction and fact-checking of a child psychologist. Her contempt for transgender people living as their authentic selves is also reflected in her misleading criticisms of the Biden Administration. In 2021, she stated that the Biden administration was on a mission to “destroy women’s sports” when speaking of the President’s support for the community.

During a Georgia rally last year, Haley labeled Florida’s original “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” law as legislation “that didn’t go far enough,” given that the policy only applied to elementary school students at the time. Lo and behold, of course, Gov. DeSantis signed an even more extreme version of the law in May.

To top off her anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, she has further suggested that the U.S. military was failing because of “gender pronoun classes.”

Tim Scott

Another South Carolinian in the race, Sen. Tim Scott, introduced legislation last year that would defund schools that support transgender children while also forcing teachers to out pupils to their parents. His reasoning? Safe and inclusive school environments that protect vulnerable students are “indoctrinating” children.

Scott also made indoctrination claims when defending Florida’s “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” Law, doing so during an episode of “The View.” He also co-signed a letter urging fellow Republican senators to oppose the Respect for Marriage Act, unless the legislation contained provisions allowing discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples.

During his first campaign for national office in 2010, while vocalizing support for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Scott likened homosexuality to a “morally wrong choice, like adultery.”

To state it plainly — a lot is on the line for LGBTQ+ rights in the next year. Learning the records of each candidate will be key — and voting for pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot will be an instrumental step in the battle for our rights. Learn more about the fight for our freedoms — and of our lives.