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

Friday, 17 March 2023 17:00 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 and Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, March 17 (Openly) - Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are staking out far-right positions on LGBTQ+ issues as Republicans prepare to pick their candidate for the 2024 presidential election.

Trump has already announced that he is running for president, as has Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. DeSantis is also widely expected to join the race, though he has yet to announce his intentions.

Likely frontrunners DeSantis and Trump are both leaning into the culture wars that have animated the Republican base in recent years, including backing pushbacks on LGBTQ+ education in schools, affirmative care for transgender children, and trans inclusion in sports.

Incumbent President Joe Biden has been hailed as a champion of the LGBTQ+ community - from signing a law to protect same-sex marriage rights to issuing executive orders to prevent anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and protect trans youth.

Democrat Biden has said he plans to stand for re-election, though he has not yet made a definitive announcement.

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

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

What have Trump and DeSantis said about LGBTQ+ rights?

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

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.

"People are seriously in favor of (allowing participation), and I don't understand it," he said at a rally on Monday in the U.S. state of Iowa.
Trump made similar comments during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2021, describing trans women as "biological males".

His potential rival DeSantis has declared Florida as the place "where woke goes to die".

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

"I think we have really done a great job of drawing a line in the sand to say the purpose of our schools is to educate kids not to indoctrinate kids," he told a rally in Des Moines last week.

DeSantis 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.

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

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. His justice appointments have left the Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority.

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.

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, told Openly in January: "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 trans 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.

This article was updated on March 17 to include recent comments by both Trump and DeSantis

(Reporting by Ben Ryan and Hugo Greenhalgh; editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit Openly, the LGBTQ+ news website from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

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