My LGBTQ rights agenda, and a commitment for Pride Month

LGBTQ Americans deserve a president who will always stand with them and protect their civil rights.

As June begins, I want to take a moment to mark and celebrate an important occasion: LGBTQ Pride Month.

This month was established to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots — a demonstration against discrimination and oppression, led by trans women of color, that sparked 50 years of activism and hard-won progress for LGBTQ rights.

Pride is a chance for us to celebrate the countless brave individuals who have broken down the barriers of bigotry and fought to make America a more equal place. This month, we reflect on how far we’ve come in the fight for LGBTQ equality, celebrate our LGBTQ family, and recommit to the continuing march forward.

I’m proud to have stood with the LGBTQ community my entire career. I was one of the first senators to support marriage equality, and led the effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I spearheaded the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and secured its first hearing in the Senate in 16 years. I’ve been fighting for LGBTQ parents, workers, and military service members for as long as I’ve been in office.

LGBTQ Americans deserve a president who will always stand with them and protect their civil rights — without hesitation. Unfortunately, what they have right now is a bigoted, cowardly bully who makes the LGBTQ community more vulnerable.

When it comes to LGBTQ issues, Donald Trump has put the bully in bully pulpit. His administration’s policies have not only eroded the progress made by the LGBTQ community in the last 50 years, but have actually put LGBTQ Americans at greater risk of discrimination — or worse, violence.

Trump has taken aim at the rights and safety of LGBTQ Americans with one cruel announcement after another. He’s opened doors for discrimination against transgender people in the health care system and in homeless shelters. He announced a “conscience objection” rule to give health care workers license to deny care to transgender and queer patients. And he has moved to deny citizenship to the children of LGBTQ couples born abroad, a right afforded to every other American child by birth.

As president, I would undo Trump’s harmful policies and defend the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans. And I’ll push for proactive policies to ensure all Americans can live free from discrimination and bigotry based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

We can’t allow hateful people, no matter how powerful they are, to roll back decades of progress. We need to permanently secure the gains LGBTQ Americans have made, and relentlessly strive to expand equal rights and opportunity for all.

So today, as we kick off Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, I want to share my LGBTQ rights agenda to combat discrimination and ensure that every LGBTQ person can live freely and safely in America.

Equal rights

Guaranteeing and protecting equal rights for LGBTQ Americans is one of the most pivotal civil rights struggles of this generation, and I would use the full power of the presidency to enshrine those rights into law at every level of society.

I’m a proud original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would finally create federal protections from discrimination for LGBTQ Americans. The Equality Act would prevent discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The U.S. House passing the bill is a historic milestone, and the Senate should do the same. If it came to my desk as president, I would sign the Equality Act immediately.

Regardless of Congress’ actions, as president I would direct my Department of Justice to consider gender identity and sexual orientation a protected class to prevent discrimination in any area of public life. I would prioritize the enforcement of that policy by hiring Department of Justice attorneys to focus specifically and exclusively on eradicating anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Equal rights mean the right of all Americans who are brave enough to choose to serve in our military to do so, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Because homophobic and transphobic policies hurt our military readiness as well as undermine our values, as commander in chief, I would immediately rescind Trump’s hateful and harmful ban on transgender people serving openly in our military. I would also charge the Department of Defense to end discrimination against service members in our military living with HIV.

Lastly, I would move to federally recognize a third gender in identification documents, and create an “X” designation on ID cards for Americans who don’t feel comfortable with a “male” or “female” designation. Earlier this year, I became the first presidential candidate to join transgender and queer advocates in supporting this proposal.

Families and kids

I’m running for president to fight for every family as hard as I would fight for my own. That includes LGBTQ families and kids, who — despite victory on marriage equality — still face myriad obstacles and disparities that hold them back.

I was proud to be one of the first senators to support marriage equality, and as president, I would do everything in my power to ensure we protect that right. Like my plan to codify Roe v. Wade in law, I would also move to permanently codify marriage equality as the law of the land and ensure that Obergefell v. Hodges can never be overturned.

But marriage is just the beginning, and it’s not every family’s reality. One plank of my Family Bill of Rights is the right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of your income or sexual orientation. My bill, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, would ensure that taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies can’t discriminate against foster or adoptive families based on their gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. I would also prevent discrimination against LGBTQ kids in foster care. And I would require insurance companies to cover fertility treatments like IVF for families, including LGBTQ couples, who can’t get pregnant independently.

I would require that hospitals in every state offer a gender-neutral parental form to ensure that both members of a same-sex couple can secure their parental rights from the day their child is born. You shouldn’t have to adopt your own child just because of your gender.

I believe that the president should fight for the most vulnerable among us, and that includes tackling the crisis of mental health and suicide among LGBTQ kids. LGB kids are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and bullying or abuse of LGBTQ kids is directly and dramatically correlated with self-harm. And when homophobia and transphobia have a bullhorn at the top levels of our government, it makes LGBTQ kids less safe.

I would increase funding and access to mental health services for LGBTQ youth, and direct my Department of Education to issue comprehensive anti-bullying guidance to schools so teachers and counselors can intervene, prevent, and adequately respond to bullying of LGBTQ students. I would ensure that LGBTQ students are protected under Title IX, and far from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, I would nominate a pro-LGBTQ Secretary of Education who will ensure that LGBTQ kids aren’t marginalized at school.

I would enact a nationwide ban on “conversion therapy,” finally outlawing this despicable, torturous practice in the 32 states that have yet to do so. And as president, I would reinstate the Obama administration’s guidance recommending that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

Health care

Health care is a fundamental right that should be guaranteed to all Americans. You should never go without the care you need because it’s out of reach — whether because of discrimination, poor care, or high costs.

Too often, systemic bias in our health care system puts LGBTQ Americans in danger of receiving inadequate or insufficient care: Nearly half of trans people say they’ve delayed or skipped accessing health care altogether because they couldn’t afford it. We must protect the organizations that provide health care to LGBTQ Americans and expand the scope of what that health care means.

Republicans’ assault on reproductive freedom may be motivated by misogyny, but it hurts transgender and non-binary Americans too. I have always pledged to protect funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X-funded health care providers, which serve millions of LGBTQ patients — many of whom have nowhere else to go for compassionate, gender- and orientation-competent health care. I would act to prevent all restrictions on reproductive health care, including abortion, and repeal Trump’s gag rule to keep politicians out of private medical decisions. By attacking Title X, Trump is attacking those who rely on Title X-funded clinics: disproportionately LGBTQ people, low-income people, and people of color.

Every American should be able to live freely in their gender identity and get the medical care prescribed by health care professionals, so I would ensure health insurance plans do not single out and exclude treatments for transgender patients. And I would make sure equal care is available to all Americans, including veterans, members of the military, and those in correctional facilities.

If someone is generous enough to donate blood, they shouldn’t be discriminated against because of an antiquated, bigoted policy without scientific basis. I would make sure the FDA fully repeals its discriminatory blood donation ban, as I’ve called for it to do since 2010.

As president, I would protect and increase funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment, as I always have in the Senate. I would also work with the CDC to make generic PrEP drugs more widely available and affordable.

Safety

No one in America should ever live in fear of violence because of who they are — and we have to work much harder to guarantee the safety of LGBTQ individuals.

Hate crimes are rising in America, and trans women of color are being killed at disproportionately high rates. Already in 2019, five black trans women — Dana Martin, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, and Michelle Washington — have been murdered. We need to address the crisis of hate crimes against LGBTQ people, including fatal violence against trans women of color. We’ll do it by not only condemning homophobia and transphobia that emboldens this violence, but also by directing DOJ resources to tracking and prosecuting hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color.

As president, I would ensure that we fully fund the critical programs under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which provide training and assistance to state and local authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes when they occur.

Unlike our current president, I would not coddle or cozy up to foreign leaders who oversee human rights abuses against LGBTQ people. I would support international efforts to eradicate discrimination and violence, and I would stand up to any country and leader who allows the persecution of LGBTQ people — whether Chechnya and Russia or Brunei. And as I have always worked to do, I would ensure that asylum claims of LGBTQ people fleeing persecution are recognized so that they may reach safety.

Finally, I would work to combat the disproportionately high rates of homelessness among LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, and also ensure that LGBTQ people who do experience homelessness are not made even more vulnerable by discrimination. I would direct my Department of Housing and Urban Development to properly measure homelessness in order to secure appropriate funding that serves all homeless people. LGBTQ youth make up as much as 40% of America’s homeless youth, often driven by disownment by their families, bullying or mistreatment in schools, or discrimination in the foster system. As president, I would guarantee funding for programs to support homeless youth, and also work to address the systemic upstream factors that leave LGBTQ kids without a place to call home.


Here’s my biggest commitment of all: I won’t stop at the policies I’ve outlined today when it comes to fighting for LGBTQ families and individuals. The LGBTQ community is not a monolith with a finite set of needs, and equal rights and freedom from discrimination should be the bare minimum we accept.

LGBTQ people deserve to live, work, raise families, and succeed just like anyone else — and LGBTQ kids deserve to grow up in a country that supports and encourages them. I’ll fight for them and their futures fiercely, just like I’d fight for my own family.

As president, I will do more than defend LGBTQ rights — I will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community in the fight for equality. We’re in this together, because LGBTQ rights are human rights. And we will fight for them.