Melania Will Step Out To Make Rare Political Appearance at LGBTQ Fundraiser Next Week

‘I would say that this might be an issue that she personally cares about,’ says one history scholar.

AP/Wilfredo Lee
Melania Trump after voting in the Florida primary election in March. AP/Wilfredo Lee

The former first lady, Melania Trump, is set to emerge from her seclusion to host a fundraiser for a group of LGBTQ Republicans in a rare political appearance on Monday.

Ms. Trump’s decision to spearhead the Trump campaign’s outreach to LGBTQ Republicans is raising questions about why she has chosen to speak out on this issue while being conspicuously absent from all other events. 

The fundraiser is for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBTQ Republicans that find themselves at odds with much of their own party. The event comes at a time when they are feeling increasingly marginalized. Prominent conservatives are painting them as “groomers,” and Republican state legislatures are passing waves of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

In 2016 the group slammed the GOP for adopting what the group’s president, Gregory Angelo, called a “vitriolic anti-LGBT platform.” Although Trump has indicated some plans to pare down the platform at the convention for 2024, the platform currently stands unchanged from its 2016 iteration.

Within this context, Ms. Trump’s decision to make one of her rare public appearances at the event could represent either an outreach, a break with the President, or at the very least a public distancing from those in the party who are not supportive of the queer community.

Ms. Trump has spoken out about LGBTQ issues on behalf of her husband in the past. In 2020, Ms. Trump said of claims that her husband is anti-gay: “nothing could be further from the truth,” despite Trump having said he opposed same-sex marriage multiple times over the years.

At the same time, Trump has maintained good relations with some prominent gay conservatives, like the acting director of national intelligence under Trump, Richard Grenell, who was the first openly gay man to hold a Cabinet position.

The former president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Bill White, has also maintained friendly relations with Trump over the years and is supporting the Log Cabin Republicans’ effort.

A scholar of American history who focuses on first ladies, Katherin Jellison, tells the Sun that Ms. Trump may be spearheading the Log Cabin Republican fundraiser because “She would be more sympathetic than most people in the campaign to speak to LGBTQ issues.”

“I  would say that this might be an issue that she personally cares about and if no one else is doing outreach to this group of Republicans and fundraisers then this is something that she would do,” Ms. Jellison says. “Maybe the Trump campaign wants to do outreach to the Log Cabin Republicans and realizes that Trump himself would not be the most appropriate person to do that.”

The purpose of the fundraiser is for the Log Cabin Republicans’ “Road to Victory” plan ,which is aimed at turning out votes for Trump and down ballot Republicans in the 2024 election. Attendees are being asked to donate up to $100,000 to the cause.

Ms. Trump’s rare appearance contrasts with Ms. Trump’s absence from recent major events for her husband and his campaign. When asked whether she would join her husband on the campaign trail earlier this year she simply responded “stay tuned.”

Ms. Trump, for instance, was not present during Trump’s criminal trial in New York, in which he was convicted of paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, nor at the former president’s first debate.

The former first lady has also reportedly struck a deal with Trump to split her time between New York City and Washington D.C. if he returns to the White House, citing a desire to be closer to the former president’s youngest son, Barron Trump, during his first year at New York University.

According to Ms. Jellison, Ms. Trump has been the least public of any first lady in recent history. She’s “playing a very different role than any first lady in living human memory in that she is taking such a low profile. That is highly unusual.”

“We could go back to the early 20th century or the 19th century and find first ladies who had stepped back and were largely invisible to their husband’s campaign,” Ms. Jellison said.

Ms. Jellsion suggested that it’s not clear whether Ms. Trump’s absence from her husband’s campaign stems from political disagreements with the movement he leads or from personal issues, noting that the hush money situation would be “uncomfortable for any wife.”

Either way, Ms. Jellison says that “Melania Trump continues to be something of a Sphinx-like character out there — we’re always trying to read what she thinks — but we don’t seem to get closer over the years.”

The New York Sun

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