Opinion

President Trump Tries To Send Supportive LGBT Message for Pride Month, Fails Spectacularly

To kick off Pride Month, President Donald Trump tweeted messages of “support” for the LGBT community:

It’s pretty simple, right? “Decriminalization” is the opposite of “criminalization,” so it’s a good thing when our president tweets that homosexuality should be “decriminalized.” Right?

Not so fast. There’s a so much wrong with Trump’s “pride” statement that it’s tough to know where to begin.  Let’s start with word choice, ever a Trump nemesis. “Decriminalization” is something of a legal term of art, and it’s not as simple as merely making something that used to be a crime now perfectly legal.  The word Trump should have used is “legalization.” Legalizing a particular action works just how it sounds – it lifts legal restrictions over that action.  By contrast, “decriminalization”—a term coined by anthropologist Jenifer James— usually refers to the process by which criminalpenalties are lifted; when something is decriminalized, civil or municipal penalties often remain a consequence of the prohibited activity.

These days, decriminalization is usually discussed within the context of marijuana use and possession. Advocates for legalization are often at odds with those for decriminalization. Fines and other civil penalties not only keep the behavior societally forbidden, but also tie in to criminal enforcement when they incur penalties for non-fulfillment. Many opponents of marijuana decriminalization point to these latent results of civil penalties to advocate for full legalization as the more appropriate legal change.

The problem with Trump’s self-congratulatory pride tweet, though, isn’t just that he used the wrong word (or that he forgot the Q). It’s that he’s also taking credit for something not his own.  The Trump administration launched nothing to do with LGBTQ pride. President Bill Clinton first declared June “Pride Month” back in 1999, followed regularly by President Barack Obama.

While we’re at it, the Supreme Court officially declared it illegal for a state to criminalize homosexuality back in 2003, when Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority struck down a Texas sodomy statute. It’s also worth noting that Trump’s judicial hero and sanctified prototype—Justice Antonin Scaliadissented from that decision, and voted to uphold the Texas statute.

There’s also the small matter of Trump having no idea what his purportedly pro-LGBT efforts even were:

[Image via Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. She is a frequent media contributor, and is Of Counsel to Smedley & Lis, in Woodbury, New Jersey. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos

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