Following Sunday's mass shooting at an Orlando gay bar, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has voiced - and tweeted - his support for the LGBTQ community. And some in the community have expressed their support for Trump.
“He's the most pro-gay nominee that the party has ever had for president,” according to Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization for LGBTQ people and straight allies who support the GOP.
"He's the most pro-gay nominee that the party has ever had for president."
LGBTQ voters, however, overwhelmingly lean Democratic. Exit polls from the 2012 election found 76 percent of voters who identified as gay voted for Barack Obama, while only 22 percent voted for Mitt Romney. In 2014, a gallup poll showed more than 60 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters identified as Democrats, and a May 2016 poll found 84 percent of likely LGBTQ voters preferred Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
Related: #AskTheGays: Trump Comment Triggers Twitter Backlash
Trump may see an opportunity to bring more LGBTQ voters into the Republican column, and recent remarks he has made signal a move to court the community. While many other Republican politicians failed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in their reactions to the Orlando shooting, for example, Trump was one of the few exceptions.
In a speech about national security just a day after the attack, he said "Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando's LGBT Community." He then called the attack “an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want, and express their identity."
Trump then took to Twitter and criticized Hillary Clinton in an appeal to LGBTQ voters.
A number of gay men who have decided to throw their support behind Trump told NBC OUT it has not been an easy road. Juan Hernandez, a gay and Latino member of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his support led to physical violence by anti-Trump protesters at a rally in San Jose. Images of the attack and his bloodied clothes went viral.
"This is politics. Debate is OK," Hernandez said. "When you start getting violent and throwing out derogatory terms, that’s not OK."
Hernandez, who switched to the GOP after realizing his views outside of LGBTQ issues were more conservative, said he was a target even before the rally in San Jose. Other members of the LGBTQ and Latino communities, he said, have singled him out for his Trump support. “They’ll email me or send me messages. They say that I’m a sellout," he explained.
Eric, a 25-year-old gay Marine Corps veteran, was a Trump supporter before the Orlando shooting, but he said the attack - and the dangers he believes "radical Islam" poses to the gay community - has reinforced his support.
"Donald Trump has taken charge," he said." I’m gonna go for his stance on immigration and rebuilding the military."
But while Eric is a vocal Trump supporter, he declined to provide his last name due to fear of violence or "doxxing," the malicious publication of a private citizen's personal information online.
“It’s easy to come out of the closet ... It’s dangerous to come out as a Trump supporter."
“When you put your name out on a national level as supporting someone who attracts that much vitriol and disgust, you’re putting yourself up for doxxing ... Especially for someone like me who’s considered a ‘traitor,'" added Eric, who is a member of LGBTrump, an online network for LGBTQ people who support the GOP presidential hopeful.
So will gay Republicans be wearing Trump 2016 t-shirts and "Make America Great Again" hats at LGBTQ Pride events this year? Eric said it's unlikely.
“It’s easy to come out of the closet," he said. "It’s dangerous to come out as a Trump supporter."
Rob Smith is a multimedia journalist and author of "Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Army." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at @robsmithonline.
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