CLEVELAND — Donald Trump’s Republican convention speech had a genuinely surprising, sincere moment.
It came when Trump brought up the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. He said, "Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted [the] LGBTQ community. No good. And we're going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me."
The crowd cheered and clapped — not exactly a sure thing with a Republican audience when it comes to protecting LGBTQ people’s rights. And Trump, in an unscripted moment, acknowledged the crowd’s surprising reaction: "And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you."
It’s long been said that Trump doesn’t care much about LGBTQ or other cultural issues. (Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel said as much in his Republican convention speech.) To the extent that Trump opposes same-sex marriage, it’s out of political convenience. This brief moment in the speech provides a sign that may be true.
But the rhetoric Trump is using has some ugly roots: It’s essentially a European right-wing strategy to pit LGBTQ people against Muslims. As my colleague Dylan Matthews explained, European right-wingers often use Middle Eastern countries’ horrific records on gay rights to try to foster Islamophobic sentiments among LGBTQ communities — a sentiment they can tap into to garner restrictions on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. It’s effectively pro-gay Islamophobia.
The crowd’s reaction also does not mean that Republicans have progressed on gay rights or LGBTQ issues more broadly. Despite some LGBTQ advocates’ hopes that the party would drop these types of battles after losing on same-sex marriage, the 2016 platform includes continued opposition to marriage equality, support for North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, support for anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, and a tacit condemnation of same-sex parents.
But at the very least, the Republican convention will clap and cheer for ending anti-LGBTQ murder.