In­side the minds of Ge­or­gia’s gay Repub­li­cans for Trump

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

LGBT Repub­li­cans are used to be­ing asked by oth­ers about how, given the party’s track record on LGBT is­sues, they can sup­port the GOP. Many po­lit­i­cal pun­dits ex­pected more of those in the LGBT com­mu­nity to em­brace Repub­li­can can­di­dates af­ter mar­riage equal­ity be­came the law of the land, but then came the back­lash.

The GOP dou­bled down fol­low­ing last June’s U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion and was re­spon­si­ble for fil­ing over 100 anti-LGBT so-called “re­li­gious free­dom” bills across the coun­try, in­clud­ing the fed­eral First Amend­ment De­fense Act, which is still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. So the ques­tions for LGBT Repub­li­cans con­tinue, and the rise of Don­ald Trump and his con­tro­ver­sial be­hav­ior over the last year has led to a new se­ries of ques­tions.

Ev­ery­body knows the Repub­li­can can­di­date’s gaffes. Mock­ing the dis­abled. In­fer­ring that a fe­male jour­nal­ist who asked him tough ques­tions dur­ing a de­bate was men­stru­at­ing. This past month has been par­tic­u­larly bruis­ing for Trump, with him call­ing Pres­i­dent Obama the “founder of ISIS,” im­ply­ing that “Sec­ond Amend­ment peo­ple” could as­sas­si­nate Hil­lary Clin­ton, and ridi­cul­ing the par­ents of a Mus­lim-Amer­i­can Army cap­tain killed in Iraq. Sub­se­quent na­tional polls show Trump slid­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from Hil­lary Clin­ton, and the Demo­cratic Party is start­ing to pump money into Ge­or­gia now that it’s con­sid­ered a toss-up state.

So we reached out to LGBT Repub­li­cans to find out why they sup­port Don­ald Trump and the fall­out they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced as a re­sult.

Im­mi­gra­tion re­form, ter­ror­ism views drew At­lanta man

Arch Kennedy is a for­mer me­te­o­rol­o­gist who pre­vi­ously had stints at sev­eral net­works and af­fil­i­ates in At­lanta and around the South. Now he’s back in At­lanta, and for the past year has been build­ing a fol­low­ing as a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. The 46-year-old

Au­gust 19, 2016

“I wish peo­ple would stop be­ing afraid and get on my level, be­cause I’m happy to sup­port him. I’m happy to tell peo­ple that I’m an openly gay Chris­tian Repub­li­can who sup­ports Don­ald Trump be­cause he’s will­ing to de­fend me and I feel like he’s the right guy for the right job.” says he was al­ways plan­ning on sup­port­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent and fa­vored Sen. Marco Ru­bio and Carly Fio­r­ina early on in the pri­mary, while hav­ing reser­va­tions about Trump.

“As I watched him de­feat all those other can­di­dates, I re­al­ized there was a move­ment go­ing on. It wasn’t even about Repub­li­cans or Democrats any­more—it was about it bring­ing it back to the peo­ple. He’s a pop­ulist,” Kennedy told Ge­or­gia Voice.

For Kennedy, it came down to who he thought was bet­ter on lim­ited govern­ment, the econ­omy, ter­ror­ism and se­cur­ing the border.

“When it comes to im­mi­gra­tion re­form, you have to first stop the bleed­ing and I be­lieve in what he says on se­cur­ing the border, and Hil­lary Clin­ton is not re­ally push­ing that,” he says. “I be­lieve very much so that she’s an open borders girl.”

Of Trump’s tem­per­a­ment and any con­cern about how that could trans­late to the Oval Of­fice, Kennedy says he agrees that the GOP nom­i­nee needs to be “more pres­i­den­tial” and that he “needs to tone it down,” but—de­spite Trump’s ac­tions over the last month—that he’s seen im­prove­ment in that area and thinks he’ll con­tinue to calm down.

Kennedy says two groups have been the most vo­cal in their op­po­si­tion to his sup­port of Trump—es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans and LGBT Democrats. He also gets asked about the party’s plat­form, which was the most anti-LGBT plat­form in years.

“If Trump’s in of­fice, those plat­form is­sues are not go­ing to come to pass. I am more con­cerned with the econ­omy, Is­lamic ter­ror­ism and things that are go­ing to af­fect all Amer­i­cans. We have gay mar­riage, it’s time to move for­ward is the way I feel.”

‘Hon­esty seems to hurt a lot of peo­ple’

19-year-old Don­ald Trump sup­porter Avery An­der­son de­cided to do some­thing a lit­tle risky when he showed up for the first day of classes this fall at the Uni­ver­sity of West Ge­or­gia—he wore his Trump shirt and hat. He got a cou­ple of looks here and there, with a dash of com­men­tary on the side.

“One lady said she was go­ing to name her daugh­ter Hil­lary,” An­der­son tells Ge­or­gia Voice.

But he says the back­lash that day and over­all hasn’t been as bad for him, which might have some­thing to do with his county be­ing solid red, with nearly 70 per­cent of Car­roll County vot­ers opt­ing for Mitt Rom­ney over Pres­i­dent Obama in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

What’s sur­pris­ing though is that, drawn by the talk of free col­lege and free health­care, An­der­son had pre­vi­ously sup­ported Bernie San­ders for pres­i­dent and la­beled him­self a “hard­core Demo­crat.” Last year he had what he calls an “epiphany” and be­gan to ask him­self if San­ders was the best op­tion for him. Af­ter read­ing up on the can­di­dates and get­ting a look at Don­ald Trump’s tax plan, he for­mally switched to the busi­ness mogul’s side.

“I be­came a Trump sup­porter be­cause I feel like I can iden­tify with him,” says An­der­son, who was also drawn to Trump’s views on im­mi­gra­tion and the mil­i­tary. “I felt like if he could sit down with me, we can carry out a very pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion.”

He later got in­volved with the Repub­li­can Party and ended up be­com­ing an al­ter­nate del­e­gate at last month’s GOP con­ven­tion.

An­der­son is quick to de­fend the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee against claims that he’s sex­ist, say­ing, “He’s prob­a­bly mean to the women who go af­ter him and it’s kind of a re­spect thing—treat those how you wish to be treated.” And of the racism claims, he says, “They’ll bring up the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue and I’ll tell them, ‘No that’s not a racist is­sue, that’s a le­gal is­sue.’ It seems like every­thing that they try to go af­ter, I feel like they’re go­ing af­ter him for be­ing hon­est, and hon­esty seems to hurt a lot of peo­ple.”

Over­all, he says he wishes peo­ple weren’t afraid to show their sup­port for the can­di­date.

“I wish peo­ple would stop be­ing afraid and get on my level, be­cause I’m happy to sup­port him. I’m happy to tell peo­ple that I’m an openly gay Chris­tian Repub­li­can who sup­ports Don­ald Trump be­cause he’s will­ing to de­fend me and I feel like he’s the right guy for the right job.”

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

Arch Kennedy (l) and Avery An­der­son (r) are vo­cal in their sup­port of GOP nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump. (Cour­tesy pho­tos)

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