Would Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis be worse for LGBTQ+ rights in the US?

Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump

It’s official – both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are now officially in the running to replace Joe Biden as president in 2024. 

For LGBTQ+ Americans, the prospect of either Trump or DeSantis in the White House is a terrifying one. 

During his first presidency, Trump ruthlessly attacked LGBTQ+ rights, rolling back protections and ensuring the Supreme Court would remain under conservative control for the foreseeable future. 

Over in Florida, Ron DeSantis has presided over numerous bills attacking the LGBTQ+ community – most notorious of all is the so-called Don’t Say Gay law, which prevents public school teachers in the state from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to children.

Notably, both Trump and DeSantis lashed out at the trans community while announcing their presidential bids. Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort in November 2022, Trump pledged to ban trans women from competing in sports and promised to avoid “political correctness” if he’s re-elected.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is running in the 2024 Republican presidential candidate run, wears a suit and tie as he waves at a crowd off camera while standing in front of the red and white stripes of the USA flag
Ron DeSantis entered into the 2024 Republican presidential candidate run on 24 May by touting his history of attacking LGBTQ+ rights and the so-called ‘woke’ crowd. (Getty)

Meanwhile, DeSantis used his hour-long campaign launch – hosted, disastrously, on Twitter – to claim that trans people and global warming are to blame for low military recruitment. He also took the opportunity to claim children shouldn’t be subjected to “gender ideology” in schools.

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Would Trump or DeSantis be worse for LGBTQ+ rights?

It’s now looking increasingly likely that LGBTQ+ rights will emerge as one of the key battlegrounds in the upcoming Republican primaries, with both Trump and DeSantis keenly aware that stoking up culture wars could help them win support.

Neither would be a welcome prospect, but some now believe DeSantis could be even worse for LGBTQ+ rights than Trump if he emerges victorious.

That’s largely because of the commitment DeSantis has shown to his anti-LGBTQ+ agenda in Florida. Since 2019, he has presided over numerous full-scale attacks on the queer community – and many now fear those state-level laws could morph into federal policies under his presidency.

Don’t Say Gay is just one of those bills that could be expanded. There are also fears that his Fairness in Women’s Sports Act could be expanded. That bill banned trans girls and women from competing in the correct sporting categories in schools and colleges.

Former president Donald Trump wears a suit and tie as he stands at a podium and speaks into a microphone at the NRA annual conference
Donald Trump. (Getty)

It’s indicative of just how brutal a force DeSantis has been that Equality Florida issued a travel advisory warning LGBTQ+ people against visiting the state over the many draconian policies there.

For LGBTQ+ activists, the prospect of DeSantis getting into the White House is a terrifying one. Many now believe he would at least be as bad as Trump, if not worse.

Both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are ‘dangerous’ to equality

GLAAD says both Trump and DeSantis are “dangerous” to LGBTQ+ people.

“DeSantis has distorted his office, staff, state agencies and enablers in the legislature, as did the Trump administration, to carry out an anti-LGBTQ agenda that harms people and does not improve anyone’s life,” a GLAAD spokesperson said.

“DeSantis has also chosen to target business, and push wildly unpopular book bans and an abortion ban. His campaign for president started cratering before it could take off.

“Trump, despite his crimes and overt racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, still has feverish support from a sliver base of emboldened violent extremist groups who not only tried to overthrow the government but whose members now routinely target LGBTQ people and events.” 

A split-screen graphic of Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump seated against a pink-tinted background of the White House
Ron DeSantis is shaping up to be Donald Trump’s main Republican opposition. (Getty)

GLAAD says both Trump and DeSantis are “dramatically out of step with the majority of Americans who accept and embrace LGBTQ people”.

Scott Galvin, executive director of Safe Schools South Florida, personally sees DeSantis as “a far greater challenge to the LGBTQ community” than Trump presented. 

“DeSantis has a staggering history of targeting the queer community with legislation designed to belittle us. That history is a bedrock of his political rise.”

He adds: “Trump certainly enacted policies to the detriment of queers. But he at least attempted to moderate himself, once deflecting criticism by saying he was our friend. DeSantis attempts no moderation. He’s a bully who walks up, tells you he’s going to punch you in the face, punches you, then celebrates his strike. 

“Attacks on the ‘rainbow’ are red meat he happily tosses to his base. As president, he would only broaden his hatred.”

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