The time has come for LGBTQ Angelenos to cast their vote for what Democrat they want to run for president against Donald Trump. President Trump and Veep Pence haven’t been the warmest toward our community, so most of us have been waiting four years for this — and there’s obviously a lot on the line. The new voting system has allowed people to cast their ballots prior to Super Tuesday on March 3, but tomorrow is the last day to do so. It’s an important day in the primaries because about one-third of all pledged delegates are up for grabs.
The 2020 race is historic for our community because South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay presidential candidate in history. On March 1, Buttigieg announced he was dropping out of the Democratic race after a big loss in the South Carolina primary (many pundits blamed his poor performance with black Democrats). Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar followed, announcing suspension of her campaign just before this post was to be published (info on her platform is still included below).
If Buttigieg or Klouchar (or even Steyer) was your choice, if you haven’t made up your mind yet or if you’re simply too busy with life and need a cheat sheet, here’s our breakdown on where the top Democratic candidates for president (according to polls for California specifically) stand on the biggest issues facing LGBTQ Americans today.
The current frontrunner, Bernie Sanders has a whole section of his website devoted to LGBTQ+ Equality. His three “key points” are:
- Pass the Equality Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and other bills to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
- Ensure LGBTQ+ people have comprehensive health insurance without discrimination from providers.
- Advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to substantially reduce suicides.
In the Details section of his LGBTQ plan, he mentions ending Trump’s ban on trans members of the military, making the murder of trans people a federal hate crime and “supporting police departments that adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted by police unfairly.”
In terms of his past record, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he supported gay rights as early as 1983 by signing a proclamation officially designating a Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in the city. Two years later, he signed a housing and employment proclamation protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, one of the first of its kind in the country. As a member of the House of Representatives, he voted against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and against denying domestic partners the ability to receive health benefits from their partner’s plans. Later, as one of Vermont’s senators, Sanders co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the International Human Rights Defense Act, the Equality Act and the bill to designate a LGBTQ+ Equality Day. All of these bills were aimed at strengthening or expanding LGBTQ rights to ensure equal protection under the law.
Overall, Sanders would be a welcome change for LGBTQ Americans from the current regime. While some more moderate or conservative Democrats may question his Democratic Socialism, Sanders has perhaps the most consistent history of LGBTQ advocacy in the 2020 race. He was fighting with us even when it was hard and unpopular to do so — which is really important, because it shows that LGBTQ support is part of his core beliefs, not merely a political maneuver in today’s more tolerant climate.
Perhaps the most current turnoff for LGBTQ voters are Sanders’ “Bernie Bros,” a pejorative label applied to some of Sanders’ overly demanding supporters, typically white, well-educated, upper middle-class, cisgender males. This fear was proved to have some ground when Michigan Regional Field Director Ben Mora (who is gay) saw his private Twitter account leaked. In the tweets, Mora described Buttigieg as “what happens when the therapist botches the conversion” and Elizabeth Warren as a “dumb Okie” and “adult diaper fetishist” who “looks like shit.” He also shared photos of Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness in a modeling shoot, tweeting, “Jonathon Van Ness trying to look hot while Daddy Ronald Reagan watches him die of AIDS.”
The “joke” was sent days after Van Ness spoke about living with HIV for the first time and referenced his 2018 comments criticizing Bernie Sanders’ style, when he said, “Ronald Reagan, could he be bothered to mention HIV/AIDS? No, but he could be bothered to put some gel in his hair, and I just feel like that is a thing.” Van Ness has since publicly endorsed Elizabeth Warren.
The Sanders campaign responded by firing Mora. Mike Casca, communications director for Sanders, told The Daily Beast, “We are running a multiracial, multigenerational campaign for justice where disgusting behavior and ugly personal attacks by our staff will not be tolerated.”
Sanders’ biggest competition for the Democratic nomination going into Super Tuesday is former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, of course, played a huge role in Barack Obama’s administration, the friendliest one there’s been so far to LGBTQ Americans. He has spoken loudly and publicly over the last decade for LGBTQ rights but, similar to Hillary Clinton, his views on LGBTQ people have “evolved” and have not always been in tandem with our best interests, although Biden has said before that his views didn’t need to evolve because he supported same-sex marriage before Obama did.
Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of his 2020 campaign is that he’s the only Democratic presidential frontrunner who has no specific LGBTQ platform. His website — unlike other those of other candidates’ — does not have one place where LGBTQ voters can read all about his platform on our issues; Biden supporters must piece this together from various sections of the campaign site. He vows to pass the Equality Act, but so does every Democrat in the race. He includes trans women in a section devoted to ending violence against women, but it’s vague on actual plans. With a history of feeling invisible to the hetero majority, not having our own section on his site does not bode well.
In a questionnaire Biden did for the Human Rights Campaign, he said that he supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act (which ensures that schools adopt anti-bullying and harassment policies designed to protect LGBTQ youth), the GLOBE Act (which will codify American support for LGBTQ rights abroad) and he supports increased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research. To read more on Biden’s long and complicated record with LGBTQ and women’s issues, please see this old Time For Tea from April 2019, when Biden first announced his candidacy.
Since then, Biden has had some awkward gaffes that show him to be a bit out of touch. At GLAAD’s September 2019 LGBTQ Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which was streamed on YouTube, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz pressed Biden about his murky LGBTQ records, including voting in favor of both the Defense of Marriage Act and in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Biden responded by calling Lenz “a lovely person,” prompting her to fire back with, “just asking the questions people want to know.” Lenz later tweeted that she felt Biden addresses to her were “a little condescending.”
On CNN’s LGBTQ Town Hall the following month, Biden made a bizarre bathhouse comment when asked about easing racial disparities in health: “We talked about this in San Francisco, it was all about, you know gay bathhouses, it’s all about round-the-clock sex, it’s all, c’mon man.” His point was unclear. Overall, Biden is obviously preferable to Trump and will continue to help make progress in the LGBTQ’s community fight for equality, but his words indicate perhaps a little less of a progressive perspective than the other candidates.
Mike Bloomberg’s website does have an LGBTQ section, although it’s much smaller than Warren’s and even Sander’s. His main platform includes: fighting for passage of the Equality Act, addressing disparities in health care coverage and treatment, ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030, protecting LGBTQ+ youth and families, ensuring the safety of LGBTQ+ Americans in the justice system and reversing the ban on transgender individuals in the military.
In terms of his past record, Bloomberg’s website boasts that as mayor of New York City, he extended anti-discrimination laws to include gender identity in 2002 and implemented a number of initiatives to reduce LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. He also made New York City’s public hospital system the first to mandate comprehensive training to address LGBTQ+ health disparities. He’s supported marriage equality since 2005 and officiated a same-sex wedding on the first day it was legal.
Bloomberg and Biden are the two most moderate candidates, but they’re also the two most similar to the status quo. They’ll take better care of LGBTQ constituents than Trump, but many argue not by a whole lot. Bloomberg specifically has often been accused of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Republican in disguise. His use of stop-and-frisk not withstanding, he was also caught on video making comments calling trans people “he, she or it” and referencing a trans person as “some guy in a dress.” He apologized for it, but for some in the community his sincerity is questionable.
The former candidate — she withdrew from the race today —had a plan on her website for LGBTQ Americans including: improving access to health care, standing up for civil rights, advocating for children and families, employment and economic inclusivity, supporting LGBTQ rights abroad, lifting the ban preventing qualified transgender people from serving in the military and restoring protections for the LGBTQ community, protecting LGBTQ people from government-sanctioned discrimination, prioritizing LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies across the federal government to address homelessness, suicide and access to life-saving drugs, and collect data to address LGBTQ disparities.
Klobuchar rose to national attention during the Senate confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh. She asked him whether he had ever blacked out drinking. “Have you?” he answered, to which she calmly replied, “I have no drinking problem, Judge.” Kavanaugh later apologized to Klobuchar, whose father struggled with alcoholism. Her recent record on LGBTQ issues is fairly spotless, but her older record is a little more fuzzy.
In 2012, Minnesota Republicans put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban marriage for same-sex couples. Most Democrats publicly opposed the ban, including Klobuchar’s counterpart in the Senate at the time, Al Franken. But as months passed, Klobuchar, whose name would also be on the ballot, was silent. Inside her campaign, one staffer said, it was clear that Klobuchar did not want to speak out although she personally opposed the amendment. Minnesota eventually became the first state in history to vote down a marriage ban for same-sex couples that year by a narrow 4 percentage points; Klobuchar won reelection by 35 points.
Based on information from her website, Warren may have the most robust platform for LGBTQ issues of the current frontrunners. The Massachusetts senator released a 12-page policy back in October and while its thoroughness is commendable, it’s a bit daunting to get through. For those who want the CliffsNotes version, Warren begins with a history of LGBTQ milestones, including the Stonewall Riots, Lawrence v. Texas (where the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that criminalizing same-sex relationships was unconstitutional) and the legalization of gay marriage.
She continues by presenting what is currently at stake for LGBTQ Americans: She gives statistics spotlighting how frequently LGBTQ Americans experience discrimination, how LGBTQ youth feel unsafe and are more likely to be homeless, and how “transgender people of color are disproportionately likely to to be incarcerated and experience high levels of police profiling and misconduct. Black, indigenous, and Latinx transgender people are more than three times as likely to live in poverty than the U.S. population as a whole. And at least 21 black trans women were killed in 2019. This crisis demands action,” she writes.
Warren points out how we’re currently under attack by the Trump administration, including the three Supreme Court cases that threaten to roll back LGBTQ rights. She then spotlights the following quote in big, bold, black letters: “We need a president who will lift up the voices of every gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, two-spirit and intersex person. We need a president who has the courage to stand up to discrimination, and fight back.”
The plan goes on by discussing “Equal Justice Under the Law,” which includes passing the Equality Act and preventing the weaponization of religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Next she discusses “Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth and Families,” which covers banning discrimination in adoption and child welfare agencies, a nationwide ban on conversion therapy, making schools safer for LGBTQ students and including a third gender marker on identification, in addition to making this easier to change.
Other sections of her platform include: “Empowering LGBTQ+ Workers,” “Ending the Criminalization of LGBTQ+ People,” “Fighting For Equitable, Inclusive and Gender-Affirming Health Care,” “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic,” “Fighting For LGBTQ+ Rights In Our Foreign Policy,” “Improving LGBTQ+ Data Collection” and “Ending the Murders of Transgender Women of Color.” Fairly comprehensive to say the least but she’s known for having a plan, right?What about her past record though?
Warren received a perfect score of 100 on the HRC’s Congressional Scorecard measuring support for LGBTQ equality in the current 115th Congress, as well as in the 114th and 113th Congresses (as did Sanders and Klobuchar). In 2011, in her first Senate campaign, Warren came out strongly for marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which was the predecessor to the Equality Act). In March 2012, when President Obama was “evolving” in his views on marriage equality, Warren said, “I want to see the president evolve because I believe that is right; marriage equality is morally right.”
During her first year in office, Warren gave a speech urging fellow senators to pass ENDA, which would have banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate passed ENDA that year, but the bill never came to a vote in the House. The now-pending Equality Act includes the employment provisions of ENDA as well as further bans on discrimination in housing and other areas.