Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Sunday he doesn’t think being gay should be a reason to fire employees working for private companies, but it remains unclear whether he backs legislation to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination.
Trump made the remarks during an extensive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when host Chuck Todd asked whether private companies should be able to terminate an employee based on sexual orientation.
“It’s a big discussion and I guess it’s getting a lot of negative rulings right now, that whole thing, and I’m willing to go with what the courts are saying,” Trump said.
Asked by Todd to clarify whether that means a company shouldn’t be able to fire an employee for being gay, Trump said, “I don’t think it should be a reason.”
The meaning behind Trump’s initial response on “negative rulings” coming out of the courts is unclear as is why he thinks they would be negative if he’s against anti-gay discrimination.
The candidate may have been referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, or the recent determination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is prohibited under the gender provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Also unclear is whether Trump’s response means he would support federal non-discrimination legislation that would prohibit anti-gay bias in the workforce, such as the Employment Non-Discrimation Act, or a comprehensive bill that would prohibit such discrimination in all areas of civil rights law, such as the recently introduced Equality Act. Trump also hasn’t addressed whether he also thinks being transgender should be a reason to fire a worker.
The Washington Blade has placed a call to the Trump campaign to clarify whether the candidate would support comprehensive legislation barring anti-gay discrimination that would be inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
In 2000 when he was considering a presidential run on the Reform Party ticket, Trump reportedly said in a lengthy interview with The Advocate he would support adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act — an idea that’s similar in principle to the Equality Act pending before Congress. It’s unknown whether Trump still holds this position he expressed 15 years ago.
Also during the interview on the “Meet the Press,” Trump said he identifies as pro-life, although he said abortions should be permitted in cases of rape or incest. The candidate also said every one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States “have to go.” Trump offered details on plans for a wall along the Mexican border and making Mexico pay for it.
Trump isn’t alone among Republican candidates in terms of expressing opposition to anti-gay discrimination in the workforce. In 2013, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suggested support for ENDA, saying the state’s sexual orientation non-discrimiation law and ban on same-sex marriage have struck a “healthy balance” in the state. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he’s against anti-gay discrimination, but wedding planners should be able to reject services for a same-sex wedding and laws prohibiting discrimination should be handled on a state-by-state basis.
In an interview with the Washington Blade, former New York Gov. George Pataki said LGBT non-discrimination laws should enacted at the state level like the measure he signed into law in his state, but stopped short of endorsing the Equality Act. In July, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson told the Blade he would support something to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and religious beliefs, but said the U.S. Constitution already affords those protections. All of the 17 Republican candidates remain opposed to same-sex marriage.
In the Democratic field, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) have announced support for the Equality Act, which was introduced by Democratic lawmakers in July. Each of these candidates supports same-sex marriage.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Trump’s remarks against anti-gay discrimination are “welcomed” by his organization.
“The big picture here is that Trump is just the latest GOP presidential candidate to state he opposes firing someone based on their sexual orientation, joining Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and George Pataki in that sentiment,” Angelo said. “I’ve reached out to the Trump campaign in hopes of discussing these matters in greater detail, but his statement on ‘Meet the Press’ yesterday was definitely encouraging.”