May 25, 2022 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Trump choice for Ed. Secretary has history of funding antigay causes

Donald Trump has chosen Betsy Devos as his education secretary. (Photo by Keith Almli; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Donald Trump has chosen Betsy Devos as his education secretary. (Photo by Keith Almli; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

BY CHRIS JOHNSON  |  Donald Trump has selected as education secretary a Michigan Republican who’s championed charter schools and contributed to efforts to ban same-sex marriage, raising questions about the next administration’s treatment of LGBT students.

On Wednesday, the president-elect announced Betsy DeVos would be his choice for the post at head of the Department of Education, citing her record as a businessperson, philanthropist and advocate for education reform.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families. I am pleased to nominate Betsy as Secretary of the Department of Education.”

DeVos’ role may be temporary position if Trump gets his way with his campaign promise of abolishing the Department of Education, although that would require expending of a lot of political capital even with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Trump’s pick invoked the ire the progressive advocates as a result of DeVos’ support of charter schools, which is in line with the president-elect’s vision to offer parents vouchers to allow children to attend private schools using public education funds.

Randi Weingarten, a lesbian and president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement DeVos is “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward” since the establishment of the Department of Education.

“In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America,” Weingarten said. “DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.”

But DeVos and her family also has a history of opposing LGBT rights that may be an indication of the way she would guide schools to treat LGBT students as head of the Education Department.

According to a 2013 report in the Michigan LGBT publication PrideSource.com, Devos and her husband Dick Devos led the effort to put an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot in 2004 and contributed over $200,000 to the campaign, which ultimately succeeded. Dick Devos also contributed $100,000 in 2008 to pass Amendment 2 in Florida, an effort that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

In 2012, the revelation that Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, financially supported by Betsy Devos’ brother-in-law and Amway president Doug DeVos, donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage in 2009 prompted calls in the LGBT community for a boycott.

Betsy Devos’ father, Edgar Prince, was a co-founder of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, and her mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, contributed $75,000 to pass the anti-gay marriage amendment in Michigan.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal said his organization is “quite concerned” of Devos leading the Department of Education, calling her “another arch-conservative who is totally out of the mainstream.”

One thing DeVos could reverse as head of the Education Department is guidance from the Obama administration informing schools discriminating against transgender students amounts to a a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. That guidance, which Trump promised during his presidential campaign to rescind, required schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

The Office of Civil Rights within DeVos’ Education Department could also more generally be thwarted from investigating and resolving complaints from LGBT students who say they faced discrimination in schools and the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Washington Blade placed a call Wedneday with the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation seeking comment on the way DeVos as education secretary would guide schools in treating LGBT students.

Despite the anti-gay donations from DeVos and her family, as a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party she at one time spoke out against anti-gay rhetoric within the GOP.

DeVos was among those condemning fellow Michigan Republican Dave Agema, who represents the state on the Republican National Committee, for his anti-Muslim and anti-gay comments. According to a 2014 report in the Detroit News, DeVos said she left messages with Agema to “encourage him to do the right thing. He should resign his position as national committeeman.”

When Agema didn’t respond, DeVos said she called Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, asking him to either find a way to dump Agema or marginalize him to make it clear the party does not support his views.

“He has a right to express his ideas and opinions, but he also has a responsibility to the party” DeVos was quoted as saying at the time. “He has damaged his position and his party. He reflects badly on Republicans and on Michigan.”

Although rules prevent the Republican National Committee from ejecting a member, the committee expressed it displeasure by censuring Agema. Nonetheless, Agema’s views are consistent with the 2016 Republican Party platform, which opposes same-sex marriage, rejects non-discrimination protection for LGBT people under the law and hints at support for widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

Additionally, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., claiming the lives of 49 people and wounded 53 others, the Devos family committed $400,000 to the OneOrlando Fund, which seeks to aid the victims of the massacre, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said she’s “cautiously hopeful” about the DeVos appointment because the nominee has “demonstrated a capacity to grow over the years in her understanding and relationship towards LGBT people.”

“Of course so much depends upon who she appoints, especially to the office of civil rights,” White said. “She has stated that she believes all kids deserve a quality education. I am hopeful that she will understand that ‘all kids’ includes both gay and especially transgender kids as well.”

White said DeVos has undergone an “evolution” on LGBT rights, attributing that to the Michigan Republican’s relationship with her long-time trusted advisor Greg McNeilly, who’s gay.

DeVos’ appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. Under the rules instituted by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) when he served as a majority leader of the chamber, ending a filibuster on confirmation would require a bare majority of 51 votes. Another 51 votes are necessary to confirm her to the seat.

Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, said in a statement said she’s “deeply concerned” about the DeVos appointment, saying the nominee”s advocacy for vouchers undermines protections for LGBT students.

“True educational equity requires schools that serve the most at-risk students, including students of color; students with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning students; and English-language learners,” Byard said. “Vouchers and tuition tax credits do not advance this cause. As we have seen over the past eight years, federal civil rights oversight of education is essential to ensure that all students in this country have real access to opportunity.”

Related Posts

Venice Pride Festival and Parade Around the Corner

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

Live music, DJ sets, Sunday parade and more come to Venice Beach Recreation Center June 4 & 5  By Staff...

Trans Fans Praise Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Auntie Diaries’ Track

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” by Kendrick Lamar wrestles big issues, but his track “Auntie Diaries”...

LGBTQ Center Long Beach to Host Final Do Say Gay Workshop Friday

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Join LGBTQ Center Long Beach this Friday for its final Do Say Gay art workshop that explores...

California Trans Child Molester Faces New Kern County Murder Charge

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne After authorities recently charged Hannah Tubbs in connection to a 2019 robbery, the convicted 26-year-old trans child...

Happening Now: West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ Arts Festival

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Happening now through the end of June, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival celebrates the artistic contributions of...

Alcohol a Factor in Griffith Park fatal Hit and Run of Senior Gay Cyclist

May 13, 2022

May 13, 2022

77-year-old Andrew Jelmert killed in April 23 hit and run training for AIDS/Lifecycle By Susan Payne The Los Angeles Police...

Kaiser Permanente Hospitals Receive LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader Designation

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

Kaiser Permanente’s 15 hospitals recognized by Humans Rights Campaign  By Susan Payne This year, Kaiser Permanente’s 15 hospitals in southern...

‘Match the Stars’ During MisMatch Game Performance Benefitting the LGBT Center

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Susan Payne An unstoppable comedy phenomenon is set to reach a $200,000 goal in money raised for the Los...

Confidential Settlement Made With Many LGBTQ Students at USC Over Alleged Doctor Misconduct

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

More than 80 former patients accuse Dr. Dennis Kel of sexual battery, harassment and inappropriate remarks By Susan Payne In...

Audio Meets Reality in ‘Being Trans’ Podcast Series Showcasing the Lives of Four Transgender Individuals of the LA Area

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Through narrative-style storytelling, BEING Studios gives listeners an intimate, first-person access into the worlds of people they may not otherwise...

Orange County Man Faces Federal Charge on Suspicion of Making Anti-LGBT Threats Against Merriam-Webster

April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022

Jeremy Hanson of Rossmore charged in connection to October threats  By Susan Payne  An Orange County man faces a federal...

Palm Springs Approves Universal Income Pilot Program for Transgender, Nonbinary Residents

April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022

Payments to start in 2023 By Susan Payne A guaranteed income pilot program that would provide transgender and nonbinary residents...

Nobel Laureate and Education Activist Malala Yousafzai to Speak in Beverly Hills

April 28, 2022

April 28, 2022

May 15, 2022 at Saban Theatre Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel recipient and activist for education and equality is coming...

Compton Man Arrested for Allegedly Targeting, Robbing 20+ Gay Men He Met on Grindr

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

By Susan Payne Authorities have announced the arrest of a Compton man who allegedly targeted and robbed more than 20...