The RNC Has Gone From Honoring LGBTQ Pride To Attacking Joe Biden For Celebrating It

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, speaks during a session at CPAC 2019 on February 28, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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On Monday, the Republican National Committee’s research arm sent out a memo mocking remarks made by President Biden during an LGBTQ Pride Month celebration over the weekend. Just a few years ago, the memo’s tone might have been surprising. But the attack was the latest chapter in a fraught history that has seen the RNC alternately embrace the annual celebrations, and then back far away from them. 

At the start of the Trump era, the GOP showed signs of reaching out to the LGBTQ community including on the campaign trail and in statements from RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who indicated the party was committed to growing “our big tent.” However, within the past two years, as the far right has fixated on the LGBTQ community, the more mainstream Republican Party has followed suit. This shift has coincided with a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills from Republicans in state legislatures and it has included a change in tone from both Trump and the RNC 

The RNC’s research memo was dismissive of both the annual LGBTQ Pride Month, which takes place in June, and the idea that the community, which is facing rising discrimination and hate crimes, has shown courage. In his memo, RNC Rapid Response Director Jake Schneider highlighted what he termed Biden’s “penchant for embarrassing himself in public.” As an example, Schneider pointed to what he described as “this weekend’s official White House ‘pride’ celebration” using quotes to seemingly question the very idea of celebrating the LGBTQ community. 

Schneider’s email went on to criticize Biden for telling the crowd, “I see more courage on this lawn than any time I’ve seen in the recent past.” Schneider suggested this statement was inappropriate since Biden has had events in recent days with members of the armed forces. His memo also included Biden’s comment that “a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant for being gay in the afternoon.” Citing an article in Fox News that quoted various conservative pundits and activists, Schneider claimed there was “zero evidence” for this type of discrimination. However, there have been multiple alleged incidents of gay people being turned away at restaurants in the past decade and advocates say refusal of service is on the rise

The attack on Biden was a far cry from more recent years where RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel marked the Pride Month celebrations herself. In 2020 and 2021 McDaniel issued tweets declaring her support for “LGBTQ Americans.” McDaniel sent no such tweet this year. 

McDaniel and the RNC did not respond to requests for comment on this story. The chairwoman’s tweets are just one example of the GOP’s back-and-forth relationship with Pride Month. 

On the campaign trail in 2016, former President Trump, who is running for re-election against Biden, cast himself as more accepting of gay rights than other Republicans. However, once he took office, Trump retreated from his efforts to reach out to the community, including skipping the White House’s past practice of officially recognizing Pride Month. 

The RNC’s past attempts to reach out to the LGBTQ community have sparked both internal and external backlash. In 2020, as Trump mounted his first re-election bid, the Republican National Committee opted to keep its outdated party platform from four years earlier amid issues staging the party’s quadrennial convention posed by the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. That 2016 platform included strong opposition to gay marriage. When the party drew criticism for not moving on from that position, the RNC sent out a memo that touted Trump’s “Unprecedented Steps To Protect The LGBTQ Community.” That memo has since been deleted from the RNC website. 

In 2021, McDaniel made another attempt to moderate the party’s position on LGBTQ outreach. That November, in a dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, McDaniel announced the “RNC Pride Coalition,” an outreach initiative in conjunction with the Log Cabin Republicans, which bills itself as “the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies.”

The “RNC Pride Coalition” quickly sparked anger from some religious organizations and Republicans including the Texas GOP, which issued a resolution suggesting the move was “identity politics” and declaring, “the Republican Party of Texas pledges fidelity to our Party platform and affirms its stand that the most basic and fundamental building block of any society is marriage between one man and one woman.” McDaniel reacted with an email where she offered an apology for how she announced the coalition and suggested it would only include a single staffer. “The RNC hiring this new staffer does not mean we are advocating for ANY policy or RNC platform change on these issues,” she wrote.

The RNC and the Log Cabin Republicans did not respond to requests for comment about whether the coalition is still active and what, if anything, it may have accomplished during its run. 

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