With just under half of the Democratic Nominees fading into the background before the next debate, I* wanted to rank the current nominees based on their history, voting records and public support (or lack thereof) for the LGBTQ community. Here is how the potential future Presidents of the United States rank within the LGBTQ community.
Pete Buttigieg: A+
It seems obvious that the only gay candidate would rank highest on the list of Democratic nominees who are the most LGBTQ-friendly, but what Mayor Pete has is experience on being on the receiving end of hateful discrimination and prejudice for being a member of our community. That doesn’t take away from the loving support of someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but Mayor Pete can relate on a deeper level with us because he is us.
As a very vocal advocate for same-sex marriage and gay rights, Mayor Pete has made it clear we as a country can never go back, and that progress for everyone is the only way we can unite. He has urged fellow political LGBTQ activists to welcome former homophobes who have since changed their minds, saying, “There are millions of Americans who today are not proud of what they believed yesterday about us, but we ought to make them proud of the fact they came on to the right side of history.” He leads with love and compassion while remaining tough and firm in his clear stances on paving more roads for LGBTQ citizens. He’s written new, protective pro-LGBTQ legislation in his town of South Bend, Indiana, and supports gender-reassignment surgery for prisoners. Mayor Pete reminded the public that while prison serves an obvious purpose to keep violent, dangerous individuals off the streets, many in prison are not heartless animals, but citizens who made mistakes and are going through a rehab process for it, and that the most vulnerable are those who are locked in with the gender of people whom they don’t identify with and their lives in much more danger because of it.
He also makes no secret that he will purposely kiss his husband, Chasten, on live television any chance he gets to show off his love as a reminder to young gay boys that loving who you love is perfectly fine and natural, and that you should never be afraid to show your feelings in public the way straight people get to without the fear of hate or discrimination. While he is not my personal first choice, Mayor Pete would be an excellent representation for the LGBTQ community as our President of the United States.
Our Returning Champions:
Bernie Sanders: A+
After Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders is by far the most pro-gay candidate among the field of nominees. Bernie was for gay rights before it was the right thing to do in mainstream politics, and his roots for fighting for our rights grow deeper than the others.
In 1983, while mayor of Burlington, Vermont he signed a Gay Pride Proclamation. He strongly opposed “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, when it was in its early stages of becoming a military policy. He ruthlessly defended gays serving in the military, calling them nothing less than patriots; and even scolded and publicly shamed fellow politicians like Duke Cunningham (R) from California who referred to gay Americans in the army as “homos in the military.”
In 1996, Sanders was one of 67 representatives who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act which denied same-sex couples the benefits and recognition that opposite-sex couples enjoy. Bernie has marched in countless Pride Parades, been an advocate for human rights of all kinds, and always takes time to remind us that he will always have our back. Bernie Sanders is definitely one of our strongest allies, and even if he is not your first choice for President, we are all lucky to have him on our side.
Julian Castro: A
As mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Castro signed an ordinance that banned discrimination in the workplace based on someone’s identity, gender, race, or sexual orientation. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Castro pushed Texas to further strike down any remaining anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage laws being enforced by the state and further fought for increases in the Texas budget for the fight against LGBTQ homelessness.
While acting as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) under Obama, Castro personally saw fit to eviscerate housing laws across the country that were aimed at keeping LGBTQ youth from receiving housing funds. He prioritized increases in protections for young people at risk of homelessness because of their gender, orientation and/or identity, and publicly said, “It’s a tragedy that so many LGBTQ youth are being mistreated simply because of who they are, making them particularly vulnerable to homeless.”
Elizabeth Warren: A
Like Bernie Sanders, Warren’s history of championing LGBTQ rights goes far back, and her voting record speaks for itself. Warren supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has fully supported and pushed all anti-bullying legislation congress has ever seen. In 2011, Warren publicly said, “No one…no one should be discriminated against because of their race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or religion.”
After Obama publicly said in his first run in 2008 that marriage should be between a man and a woman, Warren pushed him to be more progressive on his views, and in 2012 Obama “evolved” on the issue and has since been in favor of same-sex marriage. She has never missed a Pride parade and has been vocal and unmovable in her pro-LGBTQ views and policies. She has, however, received some pushback when she did not support gender-reassignment surgery in prisons, believing it is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.
Kamala Harris: A
As a gay man from California, I have personally witnessed first-hand Harris’ passion, determination, and love for gays and fighting for our rights. Kamala Harris is my pick for President and her endless drive and love for our community is a big reason why.
As Attorney General in California, she was one of the public faces fighting against Prop 8, which attempted to ban same-sex marriage. When the Supreme Court first ruled against same-sex marriage, Harris ordered clerks to issue marriage licenses to all same-sex couple seeking them with “no exceptions.” She co-sponsored a bill that ended “gay panic” defenses, meaning when someone commits acts of violence or abuse against someone in the LGBTQ community and then tries to blame the victim’s gender, orientation or identity to justify the crime.
Like many of the others on this list, she has participated in Gay Pride parades, officiated same-sex weddings, and continues to be vocal on her stances in favor of LGBTQ rights and protections both at home and in the workplace. She believes in keeping Church and State separate and has made her stance clear that people of faith cannot discriminate against homosexuals, transgendered people, or queer youth under the smoke screen of “religious freedom”, and that our rights as LGBTQ Americans take priority over religious beliefs that we are second-class citizens because a book of faith says so. In 2015 she refused to certify a “Kill the Gays” ballot initiative that would have, unconstitutionally, imposed the Death Penalty for anyone committing “homosexual acts”.
Harris, like Elizabeth Warren, does have one spot on her record with the transgender community when she refused to support taxpayer funding for gender reassignment surgery for two inmates in prison. The case was made in front of Harris that not doing so was a form of “cruel and unusual punishment” for the inmates, and Harris argued that the two inmates were requesting a surgery that she did not find at the time to be life-threatening. Rick Zbur, a gay attorney representing Equality California, a non-profit civil rights organization that advocates for rights of LGBTQ citizens in California, has been vocal in encouraging LGBTQ citizens to be compassionate and forgiving on Harris’ stance in these matters, saying she was just doing her job in having to protect her client’s interest, which at the time was the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He also stated that her record on LGBTQ issues as California’s Attorney General have been “impeccable.”
While speaking at a Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, Harris spoke:
“LGBT rights are under attack. Under attack by a Justice Department that now stands on the side of discrimination instead of equality. Under attack by a senate nominee who thinks homosexuality should be illegal, and judicial nominee who says transgender children are proof of ‘Satan’s plan’. And under attack by a commander-in-chief who wants to ban transgender troops who are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend our country.”
Having Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris on our side is like having a pair of liberal pit bulls guarding our house. They are sweet and kind…but come for any of their LGBTQ puppies and they have no problem showing their teeth.
Our Respectful Allies:
Cory Booker: B+
When it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community, Cory Booker is a good guy. He humbly admits that while growing up he actually “hated gays” because he was raised a Christian and thought gays were “sinners”, but received counseling to change his outlook on life and be more open-minded, understanding and compassionate towards people of different backgrounds, identities and orientations. Since then, he has been a strong ally for same-sex marriage, even officiating nine same-sex weddings when it became legal in his home state of New Jersey in 2013.
In 2015, Booker introduced LGBTQ non-discrimination legislation to New Jersey to protect gay rights and gays in the workplace, and last year during the Brett Kavanaugh testimony, he grilled Kavanaugh on his stances in being against same-sex marriage benefits.
Beto O’Rourke: B+
Beto O’Rourke has been a tough fighter for LGBTQ rights in his home state of Texas, especially when it comes to adoption. He has been fighting to allow same-sex couples to adopt children and says that not allowing same-sex couples to adopt and foster children is an immoral and illogical crime.
While campaigning against Ted Cruz last election season, O’Rourke blasted Cruz’s support for Texas’ anti-transgender bill that refused to provide protections for transgender citizens being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace and letting them use the bathroom of their identity rather than the gender assigned at birth. The Human Rights Campaign currently endorses O’Rourke and supports his fight against Trump’s anti-transgender bill that forbids transgender Americans from serving in the military.
Amy Klobuchar: B
While Amy Klobuchar has not been as vocal and aggressive as some other Democrats on this list, she is still very much an ally to the LGBTQ community and promises to fight for us should she become our next President. She comes from a purple state (Minnesota), but makes it clear that her views on our community are firmly liberal.
She publicly spoke out against discrimination of LGBTQ workers, citing that it is not only morally wrong and stupid to judge people based on their orientation, gender or identity, but that is it bad for business and the economy. While overseeing a report by the Joint Economic Committee she cited that statistically, 1-in-5 LGBTQ workers are harassed, persecuted, or even fired from their workplace because of their sexual orientation.
She has also been outspoken in proving to her state, in hopes of persuading more states, how beneficial it is for businesses to reach out to and include homosexuals in advertisements in media and television, arguing that regardless of your orientation, people are people, and all people need goods and services, so pointless illogical discrimination does nothing but deny services to them and business to yourself so no one wins.
Joe Biden: B-
Say what you want about Biden’s recent political gaffes, the fact is he has been an ally for a long time, including when he, like Elizabeth Warren, pushed Obama to be more inclusive and open minded about same-sex marriage and was a prominent leader in repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
He has said on his 2020 campaign that passing the Equality Act, which federally protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, would be the first act he does as President, and has promised that if he is not our next Democratic nominee or President, he will still fight for LGBTQ rights.
When Danica Roem, America’s first transgender delegate, won her election in Virginia and defeated a self-proclaimed homophobe in the process, Joe Biden called her immediately to congratulate her and wish her good luck in her future career in politics. She said in an interview that Biden’s phone call meant a lot to her and that it was very special to know an American Vice President supports her cause. Biden has also called transgender discrimination “the civil rights issue of our time.”
Biden does have a smudge on his record when it comes to LGBTQ rights. In 1990, he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to only recognize “traditional”, opposite-sex marriages as legitimate and forbade the government from giving recognition or benefits to same-sex couples. It was signed into law by President Clinton and hindered the progress for gay and lesbian couples through the 1990’s and 2000’s until it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 for being unconstitutional. While Biden has since flipped on his support for that bill from 1990, the damage was still done. Nevertheless, today Biden is a respectful ally. Better late than never.
Need to Prove Themselves:
Andrew Yang: C
Here’s the thing about Andrew Yang when it comes to his history on LGBTQ support — we don’t know.
Unlike all of the other candidates, Andrew Yang does not have a political record or accomplishments he can show off. All we can go off of is his website, on which Yang has promised that if he wins, he will support legislation that protects LGBTQ citizens, will increase funding for housing support, and that he will “appoint LGBTQ people to senior positions of power.”
Yang once said, “I’ve always been pro-gay-marriage. Why should straight people have all the fun? People are people and all love is beautiful.” For these reasons, Yang scores a “C” on our report card, mostly because promises for support are better than no promises at all. We will be keeping a close eye on him throughout the upcoming months.
Tulsi Gabbard: D-
Tulsi Gabbard seems like a very respectable woman — she served her country in the military and is a strong voice for women’s rights — but Gabbard’s history in regard to the LGBTQ community is one she probably does not want voters to dig into. She admits to growing up in a conservative household and her record shows it.
When she was first elected into Hawaii’s state legislature, she voted against anti-bullying legislation and fought against same-sex civil unions, claiming they are not “normal and natural,” and that passing anti-bullying legislation would “invite homosexual-advocacy organizations into our schools to promote their agenda to our vulnerable youth.”
In 2002 she worked with the Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Stop Promoting Homosexuality, two anti-LGBTQ organizations that work tirelessly to stop gay progress, gay rights, same-sex marriages, and smears the names of lawmakers who support and are in favor of LGBTQ protections. In 2004, Gabbard supported harmful gay-conversion therapy.
Since 2012, Gabbard renounced her right-wing views on homosexuality and has declared herself an ally to the LGBTQ community, but it does seem like she was just pandering while she was campaigning for a seat in the House. She apologized when she announced her run for President for 2020 and released a statement:
“First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said. I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey.”
Gabbard does come off inauthentic, and maybe that is why she is polling so low that she is about to be knocked out. I think we can all agree we are in a time where we need someone who we trust right now and has us locked-in, and not someone who needs more time to learn or grow on LGBTQ issues, especially when we have so many better options.
So far, only ten of the remaining candidates qualify for the next Democratic debate: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Klobuchar, Booker, O’Rourke, Yang, Castro and Buttigieg. Tulsi Gabbard, Marianne Williamson and Tom Steyer are close to qualifying, but not likely to make the cut in time.
The next Democratic Debate will take place on Thursday, September 12th, in Houston, Texas.
*Opinions on Matthew’s Place do not represent those of the Foundation. We merely provide a space for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies to discuss pertinent issues.
About the Author:
Brian Moniz is from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner.