Who is Nikki Haley? Where does she stand on LGBTQ rights?

New,York,,Ny,-,Sept,20,,2018:,Ambassador,Nikki,Haley, republican presidential candidate
Nikki Haley Photo: Shutterstock

Nikki Haley (R) is best known for serving as South Carolina’s first female governor and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) under President Donald Trump. While her public record shows some support for lesbian and gay people, she is no ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

Nikki Haley At a Glance

  • Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  • Party Affiliation: Republican
  • Race/Ethnicity: Indian-American
  • Gender Identity: Female
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Pronouns: She/Her
  • LGBTQ+ Ally: No

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Graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1994. She then worked for a waste management and recycling company called the FCR Corporation before working as a bookkeeper and chief financial officer for her mother’s women’s clothing business, Exotica International.

In 1998, she served on the board of directors for the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce. In 2003, she served on the board of directors for the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. She served as the treasurer and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

In 2004, she successfully ran for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005, the majority whip, and vice chair of the women’s caucus. In November 2010, she successfully ran to become South Carolina’s first-ever female governor. In 2014, she was re-elected to the position. She served until January 2017, at which point President Donald Trump appointed her as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She served as ambassador until the end of 2018.

After serving as ambassador, Haley briefly served on the board of directors of the aeronautics and missile manufacturer Boeing. She also established a new policy group and political action committee called Stand for America.

Haley’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues

While Haley has opposed a transphobic statewide bathroom bill while serving as South Carolina’s governor, she has also opposed government recognition of legally married same-sex couples, transgender participation in sports, and LGBTQ+ content in public schools.

Same-sex marriage

In June 2010, Haley declared that “marriage is between one man and one woman.” In 2013 court papers filed by her lawyers during her governorship argued that South Carolina shouldn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states because it “would be contrary to the Tenth Amendment and the sovereign interests of the state.”

In 2016, during her rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union Address, Haley said Republicans would respect the “differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.” While some interpreted the comment as evidence that she had softened her stance against same-sex marriage, others felt her comment expressed possible approval for religious exemptions against extending full legal protections to same-sex couples.

Trans children in sports

Haley opposes transgender youth participating in sports. In February 2021, she said she opposed President Joe Biden’s executive order, which instructed the federal government to intervene in areas that enforce anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

“Across the sporting world, the game is being rigged against women and in favor of biological men,” Haley said. Biden’s order is “paving the way for a federal mandate that all schools receiving federal funding let biological men play on women’s sports teams. The order was framed as a matter of transgender rights. But really, it was an attack on women’s rights.”

In an August 2022 interview with Fox News Sunday, she said, “I look at what’s happening with this woke culture, in our schools, wanting our kids to decide their gender. I look at the fact that we’ve got men playing women’s sports….What I will tell you is we need to snap out of it. This is absolute craziness. We’ve got enemies trying to come after us, and America has been naive. It’s been weakened. It’s been asleep at the wheel.”

Transgender access to public bathrooms

In 2016, when Republican state legislators in South Carolina introduced a transphobic bathroom bill, then-Gov. Haley said she didn’t consider the legislation necessary because “My office is not hearing any citizens that feel like they are being violated…. While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle that we’ve seen is needed in South Carolina, and it’s not something that we see that citizens are asking for in South Carolina.”

However, that same year, she also opposed a federal directive issued by then-President Obama telling public schools to allow students to use bathrooms aligning with their gender identity. She said the issue was best left to states and local governments to handle.

Don’t say gay/LGBTQ+ discussions in schools

Haley supports Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and believes it doesn’t go far enough because she thinks acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ+ people is the same as talking about sexual intercourse.

At a Georgia political gathering held during Pride Month 2022, Haley said, “They’re talking about this bill in Florida, the Don’t Say Gay bill, where gay wasn’t even mentioned, but you know what it did say? It said you cannot talk about any sort of sexual preference or gender pronouns before 3rd grade. I didn’t think that went far enough. … We didn’t have sex-ed until 7th grade. And even then, you had to have your parent sign a permission slip. And my dad didn’t sign it.”

Discrimination protections

In April 2017, when asked about Chechnya’s years-long campaign of detaining, torturing, and murdering LGBTQ+ people, then-U.N. Ambassador Haley said, “[The United States is] against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.”

As U.N. Ambassador, Haley acted as head of a delegation that sent anti-trans activist Bethany Kozma to the U.N. Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) – the world’s largest meeting on women’s rights and gender equality – as a senior advisor for the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. Kozma had previously partnered with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, including Family Research Council, to oppose trans-inclusive healthcare and public accommodation policies, stating that the latter threatens the “privacy and safety” of cisgender females.

In 2016, during her rebuttal to Obama’s last State of the Union Address, Haley said Republicans would “insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.” The statement hinted at her possible support for religious exemptions to LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections.

In 2021, when Biden signed an executive order that told executive agencies to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in areas of the law that already ban discrimination “based on sex,” Haley responded by writing an article accusing Biden of undermining women’s sports.

Other LGBTQ+ issues

During her time as U.N. Ambassador, the United States voted against a 2017 U.N. resolution condemning the death penalty for “specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, and consensual same-sex relations.” Haley claimed the U.S. vote was identical to a 2014 vote on a similar U.N. resolution during the Obama administration, but that resolution hadn’t mentioned same-sex relations.

Following backlash for the 2017 vote, Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ human rights organization, clarified that the U.S. opposed the resolution because it called for “a global moratorium on the death penalty,” something that remains legal in the United States.

In April 2021, Haley said she would support Trump for president in 2024. Trump is considered the most anti-LGBTQ+ president of all time.

Haley’s career

  • Accounting B.A. from Clemson University
  • Worked for the FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company
  • Worked as a bookkeeper and chief financial officer for Exotica International, her mother’s clothing business
  • Served on Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce board of directors
  • Served on Lexington Chamber of Commerce board of directors
  • Served as treasurer and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners
  • Served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011
  • Served as South Carolina’s first-ever female governor from 2011 to 2017
  • Served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. from 2017 to 2018
  • Established Stand for America policy group and P.A.C.

In conclusion

Haley has mostly opposed LGBTQ+ rights, including transgender-inclusive policies and the right to mention LGBTQ+ people in public schools.

Stay informed about her career by subscribing to the LGBTQ Nation newsletter.

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