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Rubio And Cruz Have 'Anti-LGBT' Advisory Boards. Where Is Trump's?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Dana Liebelson
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WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz recently created faith advisory boards packed with people who oppose LGBT rights. But GOP front-runner Donald Trump doesn't appear to have a similar formal council -- and if he does, he hasn't mentioned it.

Trump's ideological inconsistencies have had conservatives bickering for months. Some social conservatives, including Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr , have vouched for Trump anyway. But others, including some of the men who've signed up to advise his competitors, say they aren't sure where Trump stands or wouldn't help him if he asked.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been losing big in the GOP primaries , has three boards focusing on religious liberty , marriage and family  and "dignity of life."  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has at least one, focusing on religious liberty .

"The anti-LGBT activists advising both Cruz and Rubio share a common vision for the future where LGBT people are not allowed to marry" and other equal protections are denied, said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and public affairs for the Human Rights Campaign.

But none of the six advisers who spoke with The Huffington Post said Trump's people had approached them for advice. Several people on the boards, including Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who rallied for a controversial South Dakota bill that would have forced transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding to the sex they were assigned at birth, are advising both Cruz and Rubio.

Anderson said he would be willing to advise Trump, noting that he is " happy to advise any of the presidential candidates who cares about advancing religious liberty," but his participation on any particular committee should not be seen as an endorsement.

Jason and David Benham, entrepreneurs who are on Cruz's 19-person religious liberty board, also said they would counsel Trump if asked, but expressed some confusion about his grasp of religious freedom. "To be honest, we're not sure he fully understands it," they wrote in an email. "It’s short sighted to think a strong economy and tough immigration policies are more important than religious liberty," they added.  

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, who is advising Rubio, said discussing religious freedom issues with Trump would be "a really fun conversation." But when asked about Trump's commitment to those issues, he said, "I'm not sure that I know that Trump has commitment to anything that I can be certain of."

"Like many things, he has something still to learn about the subject," he added. "I'd like to think that he understands."

Others aren't eager to tie their names to Trump.

"I am not aware of [Trump's] position on religious liberty issues," said Alan Hawkins, a Brigham Young University professor who is advising Rubio on family and marriage. Hawkins said he would not join a similar board for Trump.

"Trump people will, I'm sure, never approach me, and I would never, ever, ever, ever work for them," said another member of Rubio's 13-person "Marriage & Family Advisory Board," who asked to remain anonymous because the person does not typically speak to the press. "He's the American Mussolini," the person added. (Trump's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)

Members of Cruz's religious liberty and Rubio's marriage boards said they are not anti-LGBT and denied that reversing marriage equality is their primary focus.

"Marco understands the many causes of family breakdown and the consequences. He has pulled together a board of experts who understand the same and have devoted themselves to rebuilding a vibrant culture of marriage and family," Eric Teetsel, the Rubio campaign’s director of faith outreach, told the Washington Blade last month.  

Trump has run a remarkably unorthodox campaign so far. He's been slow to buy traditional ads, ignited news cycles with his social networks and talked about his anatomy on live television . H is mushiness on LGBT issues might be part of that trend -- an effort to do anything to broaden his base of support.

“Donald Trump -- your viewers might not believe it -- is actually the most pro-gay," Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, told Chris Matthews last year. "He supports amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation on discrimination. He has been to a gay wedding, is friends with George Takei," he added.

In February, Trump promised to strongly strongly consider appointing Supreme Court justices that would reverse marriage equality. Later the same week, he told a reporter that she could look forward to more LGBT equality if he becomes president.

But if Trump's doubletalk on LGBT rights is a strategy, it's not clear what the goal is. Some social conservatives aren't convinced he's on their side. Social liberals aren't convinced, either. The president of the Human Rights Campaign said last week that Trump has also "demonstrated that he would block full LGBT equality as president."

Even the Log Cabin Republicans are now questioning Trump. This week, the group released a video  attacking Trump for flip-flopping on the issue. The video asked: “Where do you really stand on marriage equality, Mr. Trump?”

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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