Trump vs DeSantis - where do they stand on LGBTQ+ rights?

Monday, 9 January 2023 11:00 GMT

Those in attendance gather to see Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis take the oath of office at his second term inauguration in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. January 3, 2023. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

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2023 is crucial for Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination. Here's what two frontrunners say on LGBTQ+ rights
  • Republicans gear up to choose 2024 presidential candidate
  • Likely frontrunners have opposed gay, trans equality
  • Culture war brings heated debate on LGBTQ+ issues

By Benjamin Ryan

NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Openly) - Republicans are starting to gear up for the 2024 U.S. presidential race, with LGBTQ+ rights likely to be a key issue as candidates set out their pitches for the top job.

President Joe Biden has been hailed as a champion of the LGBTQ+ community - from signing an act into law that provides federal protections for same-sex marriage, to issuing executive orders to prevent anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and protect trans youth.

Biden has said he plans to stand for re-election, though he has not yet made a definitive announcement. He is likely to face a stiff challenge from Republicans, who have often sought to curb LGBTQ+ rights in a resurgent culture war over the issue.

It comes as LGBTQ+ people also fear their rights could be whittled away by the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority following justice appointments made by former President Donald Trump.

Republicans will hold primary elections starting in January 2024 to choose their presidential candidate. Trump last year became the first notable Republican to throw his hat into the ring.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who won a landslide re-election in November, is widely considered Trump's most viable likely opponent, although he has yet to announce his intentions.

Biden would be unlikely to face a significant primary challenge, as the incumbent president is generally assured of their party's support in running for a second term.

Here are the details on where both Trump and DeSantis stand on LGBTQ+ issues:

What have Trump and DeSantis said about LGBTQ+ rights?

Both Trump and DeSantis have been vocal about their opposition to transgender rights.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBT's for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley, Colorado, U.S. October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Announcing his new White House bid on Nov. 15, Trump said schools were endorsing "gender insanity" by letting trans women and girls compete in female sports categories.

"We will not let men, as an example, participate in women's sports," he said to applause at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

He made similar comments during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2021, describing trans women as "biological males."

Meanwhile, DeSantis declared Florida as "where woke goes to die" in his November re-election victory speech.

The governor restricted discussion of sexual orientation and trans issues in Florida schools by signing a bill in March that opponents have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law.

DeSantis also said in an October gubernatorial debate that puberty blockers - drugs that delay the onset of puberty - are akin to "chemical castration," although leading medical groups endorse gender care for minors that can include blockers or cross-sex hormones.

A Reuters special report last year found there is a lack of strong evidence on possible health risks including fertility impacts from children's medical gender care.

What's their political record on LGBTQ+ matters?

While serving as president, Trump banned trans Americans from serving in the military - a policy that Biden immediately reversed following his own inauguration.

Trump indicated in November that he would re-establish the ban if he won the presidency again.

Often using religious exemptions as a basis, the Trump administration also leveraged its regulatory power to roll back anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in myriad settings, including healthcare, employment, adoption, school restrooms, housing, and homeless shelters.

Trump's time in office had a lasting impact on the federal judiciary, with his administration placing 234 judges in lifetime positions.

Nearly 40% of federal judges appointed by Trump to courts of appeals had a demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ+ bias, according to an analysis released in January 2021 by Lambda Legal, a litigation-focused LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Trump's office did not return a request for comment.

Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis holds a rally in Clearwater, Florida, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

DeSantis has also overseen numerous anti-LGBTQ+ policies. In addition to the "Don't Say Gay" bill, his administration has banned Medicaid coverage of gender care for children.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, said: "The burden of proof lies with those making the claim that these treatments are safe and appropriate."

On the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June, DeSantis signed a law barring transgender girls and women from participating in female sports at high schools and colleges.

What have LGBTQ+ organizations said about them?

LGBTQ+ rights advocates told Openly they are uncertain which of the two candidates would be worse for the community, adding that a presidential win for either man would lead to an erosion of rights.

"Trump and DeSantis are two extremist politicians that are cut from the same cloth," said Geoff Wetrosky, the campaign director of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ rights group.

Related stories:

In a first, two gay men contest same Congress seat in U.S. elections

LGBTQ+ 'rainbow wave' brings U.S. midterms boost but battles ahead

U.S. midterm elections: Why is the LGBTQ+ community worried?

(Reporting by Benjamin Ryan; editing by Sonia Elks, Lucy Middleton and Hugo Greenhalgh. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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