Taking the stage on the opening night of the RNC convention, and just hours after their party embraced the most overtly anti-LGBTQ platform in its history, are three U.S. Senators who embody the GOP’s hostility toward equality: Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). Their political careers have been marked by opposing LGBTQ equality, and embracing the discriminatory provisions reflected in their party’s new platform.
On Wednesday, Mike Pence, who has made anti-LGBTQ animus a cornerstone of his political career, is poised to accept the Republican Party’s vice presidential nomination. The following night, Donald Trump is expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination, finalizing a ticket that would put at risk everything the LGBTQ community has gained over the last eight years.
Sen. Tom Cotton
During his time in the U.S. Senate, Cotton voted against the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in public schools. Cotton was also one of the senators who refused to acknowledge that the attack at the Pulse Nightclub targeted LGBTQ people.
In addition, in 2015, Cotton defended the Arkansas Governor’s religious freedom bill that enables discrimination against LGBT people, people of color, minority faiths and women by asserting, “In Iran, they hang you for the crime of being gay.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions
Sessions has a long anti-equality record in Congress. He opposed the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying, “What this court did was unconstitutional, I don’t think they had the power to do what they did…there’s nothing in the Constitution that requires such a result...”
Sessions voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and is a cosponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that could allow Kim Davis-style discrimination against LGBTQ people across the nation. Sessions also voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Sen. Joni Ernst
Like Cotton, Ernst voted against the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in public schools, and amendments that would ensure that same-sex couples have access to Social Security and veterans benefits.
The Trump-Pence Ticket
Pence became a national disgrace in 2015, for his “license to discriminate” bill that could have allowed businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people -- and subsequently defending the bill over an outcry from the business community and a majority of Hoosier voters. In a now notorious interview with ABC last year, Pence refused to answer eight separate times when asked whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Pence’s discriminatory bill had enormous consequences for the business and economic health of Indiana after a flood of companies spoke out against his bill. Indianapolis’s nonprofit tourism agency estimated that, Pence’s anti-LGBTQ bill cost the city alone up to 12 conventions and $60 million in lost revenue. Polling conducted by HRC after the 2015 fight found that 75 percent of Hoosiers said the debate was bad for the state’s economy and 70 percent of those surveyed said they opposed to the law.
Trump has reaffirmed his opposition to transgender equality, appeared alongside Tony Perkins -- leader of SPLC-designated hate group the Family Research Council -- and delusionally bragged about fictional support from the LGBTQ community in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. His false claims about his own support are belied by his own long record of opposing LGBTQ equality.
For more on Trump and Pence’s opposition to LGBTQ equality, click here.
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