Where 2020 Democratic Candidates Stand on LGBTQ Issues

October 11, 2019, 8:19 PM UTC

The concerns of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community dominated the White House race Thursday, as two Democratic candidates debuted LGBTQ-focused plans and nine candidates took part in an LGBTQ-themed town hall meeting in Los Angeles. 

Also affecting the focus were the recent arguments by the U.S. Supreme Court on employment protections and the LGBTQ community.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both unveiled plans Thursday that include banning conversion therapy or the practice of trying to rewire people out of their sexual orientation, reversing Trump-era measures they believe allow for discrimination, and vowing to fight suicides among LGBTQ youth.

Buttigieg, the only openly gay candidate of the top Democrats seeking to become president, rolled out a plan that includes promises to:

  • Sign the Equality Act, a measure that outlaws discrimination for jobs and housing, restaurant and hotel service on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in 29 states
  • Update the U.S. passport system to include a third gender of “non-binary” or “X”
  • Outlaw genital surgeries on intersex babies born with male and female sexual organs, maintaining that these procedures can by physically and psychologically hurtful
  • Get rid of barriers to medically necessary transition-related care for transgender Americans
  • Pass legislation to bolster suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth 
  • Outlaw conversion therapy,  a practice in which LGBTQ young people are brainwashed into believing they are heterosexual

His appearance during Thursday’s town hall event, which was more of a series of interviews rather than an open meeting, was perhaps the most dramatic as protesters drew attention to murders of trans women of color, and chanted “trans people are dying” and “trans lives matter.”

Buttigieg acknowledged the demonstrators and explained that there is an epidemic of harassment and violence against black trans women.

“I believe or would like to believe that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic, and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it,” the candidate said.

In an 18-page white paper released on his website, Buttigieg condemned the current administration, labeling it as one that has marginalized the LGBTQ community and expressed outright disrespect. 

“I will use my story, our energy, and the power of the presidency to tear down the walls that have excluded far too many LGBTQ+ people for far too long,” Buttigieg said via Twitter.

Warren, who maintains one of the top three spots in the Democratic race, also released a plan to support LGBTQ Americans if elected president. The blueprint includes promises to:

  • Fight to pass the Equality Act, of which she is a cosponsor
  • Make LGBTQ non-discrimination a requirement of any entity seeking a federal grant. She promised also to insure that grantees have access to training and technical assistance
  • Boost enforcement against and investigations of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community
  • Nominate federal judges who would be likely to uphold the rights of LGBTQ Americans
  • Ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the child welfare system and within adoption agencies

During Thursday’s town hall session, Warren said she would focus on the filibuster that is blocking the Equality Act to push past the Republican minority that is opposed to it.

She drew wild applause for her response to a question about how she would answer someone on the campaign trail who tells her marriage should be between one man and one woman.

“I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” Warren responded. “And I’m going to say, ‘Just marry one woman.’ I’m cool with that … assuming you can find one.”

In a document shared with the news media, Warren said, “The path to LGBTQ+ equality is far from over, but shoulder to shoulder, I will fight for LGBTQ+ solidarity with the leaders and organizers who have been at the helm from the very beginning. When we organize together, when we fight together and when we persist together, we can win.”

Here’s where other 2020 candidates stand on LGBTQ issues:

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas

In June, O’Rourke unveiled a comprehensive LGBTQ plan that includes passage of the Equality Act, a reversal of President Trump’s ban on openly serving transgender troops in the U.S. military and reforming the international asylum process to help LGBTQ immigrants find safe places to live. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

Harris of San Francisco-Oakland, who hails from the metropolitan area with the fourth largest LGBTQ population in the country, has promised to roll out initiatives aimed at protecting transgender Americans from hatred and violence. She also has vowed that if elected to the presidency, she will establish a position of chief of LGBTQ affairs in the White House. Among other responsibilities, this person would make sure that members of the LGBTQ community are representative throughout government.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sanders did not take part in the town hall event because of his recent heart attack, but he consistently scores a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He supported gay marriage years before the Supreme Court legalized it in in 2015. Back in Burlington, Vt., where he was mayor, he signed a law prohibiting housing discrimination against the gay community and other groups. He also publicly supported the city’s heavily debated gay pride parade.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Booker said during the town hall event that if he was. elected to the presidency, he would make sure that the Department of Justice thoroughly investigates hate crimes and that the Department of Education protects children. He also said that he would be a champion of paid family leave for new parents, particularly men in same-sex couples who tend to experience a disparity.

Former Vice President Joe Biden

The frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination for the White House said if elected president, he would work against providing foreign aid to and engaging in trade with countries that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. Biden also said that he would devote and office in the State Department focused on LGBTQ rights around the world. 

The Human Rights Campaign said Thursday night’s town hall event was the first-ever town hall event focused on LGBTQ issues in history.

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