Here's Where Every Single 2020 Candidate Stands On LGBTQ Rights Issues

by Morgan Brinlee
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With the Trump administration rolling back a number of protections for LGBTQ people, the outcome of the 2020 election will be hugely consequential for issues of equality and LGBTQ rights. But while nearly every White House hopeful has described themselves as a supporter of this particular issue, each 2020 presidential candidate's LGBTQ rights positions differ somewhat.

It was only four years ago that a historic Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage across the county. Yet, despite some advances in issues of equality, LGBTQ people continue to face violence and harassment every day. According to Human Rights Campaign, at least eight transgender people have been violently killed in the first six months of 2019.

What's more, legislation enabling discrimination against the LGBTQ community on the grounds of religious freedom continues to be introduced across the country. The Trump administration has opposed the Equality Act; banned transgender people from serving in the military; expanded regulations enabling health care providers to refuse LGBTQ patients treatment for religious reasons; and rolled back existing protections for transgender prisoners. In fact, it's largely due to the Trump administration's recent efforts to rollback discrimination protections that LGBTQ rights have come to play such a major role in the 2020 presidential election. Here's what the 2020 presidential candidates have said about their plans for advancing equality and LGBTQ rights, if elected:

Sen. Michael Bennet

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Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin has described Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet as "a champion for LGBTQ equality" while touting his return to the Senate as "crucial in our efforts to pass the Equality Act." Along with supporting the Equality Act, Bennet has introduced legislation aimed at improving available services for LGBTQ seniors during his time in the Senate.

As far as Bennet's plans for LGBTQ rights if elected president, BuzzFeed News reported Bennet would repeal the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Although the Colorado senator has yet to outline many specific policy proposals regarding equality issues on his 2020 campaign website, he has vowed to "fight to protect all Americans from discrimination, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability."

Joe Biden

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Since announcing his 2020 bid, former Vice President Joe Biden has moved to make a number of LGBTQ issues the center of his campaign. In early June, he vowed that "the first thing" he'd do if elected president would be to press Congress to pass the Equality Act, and he also spoke out about the deadly violence transgender people face.

Biden's stance on many issues central to the LGBTQ community has evolved over his decades in public office. As a senator in the 1990s, for example, Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a bill prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages, and "don't ask, don't tell," a military policy regarding LGBTQ service members, according to LA Weekly. As vice president, however, he was a central figure in efforts to nix White House support for DOMA and repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the paper reported.

According to HuffPost, Biden has been speaking out against transgender discrimination since at least 2012, when he called it "the civil rights issue of our time." Since leaving the White House, Biden has, through the Biden Foundation, launched "As You Are," a campaign geared at raising awareness around the importance of family acceptance for LGBTQ youth.

Sen. Cory Booker

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As the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker vowed to support marriage equality in 2012 and later presided over some of the state's first same-sex weddings. He has since continued to speak out in support of marriage equality, including a Senate floor speech in 2015 in which he weighed in on the Obergefell case. He recently declined an invitation to speak at the Family Leader's July 12 summit, saying he could not "in good conscience attend an event put on by an organization that preaches bigotry and sows hate against the LGBTQ community."

While his 2020 campaign website doesn't lay out any specific policies regarding LGBTQ rights, Booker highlights that he's "an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans."

Gov. Steve Bullock

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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has so far framed his 2020 campaign around the fact that he's a Democrat who won in a state that voted for Donald Trump. In fact, he's yet to outline any specific plans or policy initiatives regarding LGBTQ rights as part of his presidential campaign.

He is known to b a supporter of LGBTQ rights, though, according to PBS. As governor, Bullock issued an executive order in 2016 that extended non-discrimination protections for state employees and contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity. According to The Great Falls Tribune, Bullock became the first Montana governor to ever officiate a same-sex wedding in 2015.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

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While South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn't have a voting or policy record as long as some of the other presidential candidates, his candidacy has brought an open discussion of LGBTQ identity and experiences to the 2020 race. He's challenged Vice President Mike Pence's anti-LGBTQ positions and, if elected, he would be the nation's first openly gay president.

During his campaign, Buttigieg has vowed to pass the Equality Act, reverse the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military, and enforce the Affordable Care Act's non-discrimination provisions to protect LGBTQ patients. His platform also includes promises to protect LGBTQ students by passing safe schools legislation aimed at prohibiting harassment and bullying on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, among others.

Julián Castro

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As the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julián Castro was a strong advocate for a nondiscrimination ordinance that, after its passage in 2013, extended anti-bias protections to LGBTQ residents. That same year, The San Antonio Current reported that Castro had extended domestic partner benefits to include LGBTQ city employees and appointed an LGBTQ liaison to his staff. He was also, according to Texas republicans, the first San Antonio mayor to serve as the grand marshal for the city's pride parade. Castro was also a supporter of marriage equality.

As secretary of housing and urban development under former President Barack Obama, Castro launched an initiative aimed at creating safe housing solutions for LGBTQ homeless youth, Salon reported. He's since been a vocal critic of the Trump administration's refusal to collect nationally representative data on sexual orientation and gender identity via the census, according to NPR.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

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The Advocate has described New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as having "one of the most LGBTQ-supportive records of any candidate" in the 2020 presidential race. The news outlet noted that de Blasio has signed legislation establishing a third gender on birth certificates issued by the city. He's also issued an executive order guaranteeing transgender and gender non-conforming people's right to use the restroom or locker room facility of their choice in any city-owned building.

In 2017, NBC News reported that de Blasio's office released the city's first-ever LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights, in an effort to increase awareness of local, state, and federal health care protections for LGBTQ people. De Blasio has not unveiled any specific plans for protecting LGBTQ rights as president yet, though.

John Delaney

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LGBTQ Nation has noted only that "Delaney was a dependable supporter of LGBTQ issues in Congress." When Buttigieg was heckled by anti-gay protesters earlier this year, the former Maryland congressman spoke out about the incident, urging people to "stand together" and "condemn disgusting attacks on our friends in the LGBTQ community" in a statement on Twitter.

As part of his 2020 campaign, Delaney has vowed to support the Equality Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act. He's also promised to reverse the Trump administration's transgender military ban and implement a federal ban on conversion therapy.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard struggled to get her 2020 campaign off the ground after old remarks the Hawaii congresswoman had made against LGBTQ rights resurfaced. As a state representative in Hawaii, Gabbard once testified against a marriage equality bill and referred to gay people as "homosexual extremists," according to HuffPost. In a statement to the news outlet, Gabbard said she regrets the positions she took and the things she said at the time.

In a video-taped statement, Gabbard repeated her apology, claiming her socially-conservative upbringing had framed her early beliefs. "My views have changed significantly since then, and my record in Congress over the last six years reflects what is in my heart: a strong and ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ rights," she said.

More recently, Gabbard has supported the Equality Act and was given an equality voting score of 100 by the Human Rights Campaign.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was one of the first 2020 presidential candidate to release a detailed plan to protect LGBTQ rights. It includes vows to federally recognize a third gender on identification documents, order the Justice Department to classify gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes, repeal the Trump administration's transgender military ban, and bar the Defense Department from implementing or enforcing restrictive policies against HIV-positive military members.

In her comprehensive plan, Gillibrand also vowed to codify same-sex marriage, ban conversion therapy, nominate an education secretary with a focus on LGBTQ issues, and make decreasing the murder rate of transgender individuals a Justice Department objective.

Mike Gravel

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If Mike Gravel's name is unfamiliar to you, you were likely born after he left the Senate in 1981. Much of the former Alaska senator's campaign, which is being run entirely online by two teenagers, is focused on an anti-war message. However, as part of his campaign platform, Gravel has proposed providing full legal recognition to non-binary gender identities; implementing a federal ban on conversion therapy; awarding LGBTQ+ heroes the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to "prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, and credit."

In a statement released in May, Gravel also claimed he was "the first major Democrat to endorse gay marriage as a civil right."

Sen. Kamala Harris

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According to Vox, Harris' work as a district attorney in California "laid the legal groundwork" for the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. She then officiated the first same-sex wedding in San Francisco. While working as the district attorney there, Harris also established an LGBTQ Hate Crimes unit and pushed for so-called LGBTQ "panic defenses" to be barred from criminal trials. In 2018, she introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that aimed to prohibit LGBTQ "panic defenses" at the federal level.

If elected, Harris has vowed to pass the Equality Act, immediately repeal the transgender military ban, and reinstate LGBTQ equality protections established by the Obama administration to protect patients, federal workers, and those receiving benefits from federally-funded housing programs. She has also promised to establish a third gender on identification documents, roll back religious exemptions to nondiscrimination regulations, invest in LGBTQ training for law enforcement, and appoint an attorney general focused on investigating hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

John Hickenlooper

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While he was governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper supported marriage equality. According to LGBTQ Nation, he signed a bill establishing civil unions for same-sex couples in the state in 2013 and voiced support for marriage equality in 2014. In 2018, he spoke out against a Colorado baker who'd refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple seeking to celebrate their union.

To date, Hickenlooper has not rolled out a specific plan for protecting LGBTQ rights as president.

Gov. Jay Inslee

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Jay Inslee has so far focused his presidential campaign squarely on climate change. He does have "a solid record on LGBTQ issues," however, according to LGBTQ Nation. The outlet reported that Inslee was an early supporter of marriage equality, has signed legislation outlawing conversion therapy, and barred Washington state workers from traveling to Indiana after Pence, then the governor of Indiana, signed the Religious Freed Restoration Act, which critics felt left LGBTQ people open to discrimination.

According to GLAAD, Inslee also publicly condemned the Boy Scouts of America in 2014 for revoking an openly gay scoutmaster's title and troop charter. As a 2020 presidential contender, however, Inslee has not laid out any specific LGBTQ-related policy initiatives.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

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In 2018, Klobuchar was endorsed for reelection by the Human Rights Campaign, whose president described her as "a leading advocate for equality in the U.S. Senate." This year, Klobuchar has openly criticized the Trump administration's transgender military ban, saying "transgender men and women who serve our country should be thanked for their service, not attacked."

The Minnesota senator hasn't yet outlined any policy initiatives related to LGBTQ rights on her official 2020 campaign website.

Wayne Messam

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Issues related to LGBTQ rights or equality aren't currently listed on Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam's 2020 campaign website. What's more, the Florida lawmaker, who's running for the Democratic nomination, appears not to have made many public comments on LGBTQ rights.

According to the Daily Beast, Messam is one of only a handful of 2020 candidates who did not comment when asked by the news outlet to weigh in on the Supreme Court case centered around whether Title VII employment protections include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Seth Moulton

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Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts hasn't outlined many specific plans for advancing LGBTQ rights on his 2020 campaign website. He has said he believes "the fight for LGBT rights is the civil rights fight of our generation." And as a member of the House of Representatives, he's appeared to take an active stance on many LGBTQ issues. According to VoteSmart, Moulton has condemned violence against LGBTQ people in Chechnya; spoken out about the Bureau of Prisons allegedly jeopardizing the safety of transgender prisoners; urged the Trump administration to end its transgender military ban and reverse its decision to deny family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats; and demanded TSA treat transgender travelers with respect dignity among other things.

Most recently, Moulton has said that, if he is elected president, he would direct the Pentagon to review the cases of veterans less-than-honorably discharged because of their sexual orientation, and retroactively change their status to honorable discharge. In an explainer on his campaign website, Moulton says that doing so would restore benefits access for a number of LGBTQ veterans.

Beto O'Rourke

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In the past, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke has supported the Equality Act and advocated for amending the Violence Against Women Act to include protections for LGBTQ individuals, according to Out magazine. He unveiled a comprehensive LGBTQ rights plan in June, vowing to pursue a mix of executive actions and legislative actions to protect and ensure LGBTQ people. His plan also details actions such as TK TK, which are aimed at increasing protections for LGBTQ worldwide.

As part of his plan O'Rourke said he would ban conversion therapy, push for the passage of the Equality Act and Every Child Deserves A Family Act, reform the criminal justice system to protect incarcerated LGBTQ people, and repeal the Trump administration's transgender military ban and expansion of religious exemption for anti-discrimination laws. He also vowed to end the military's practice of discharging HIV+ service members and roll out policies aimed at combating violence against transgender individuals, particularly transgender women of color. O'Rourke's plan also includes actions that would designate LGBTQ asylum seekers fleeing persecution as a "vulnerable population."

Rep. Tim Ryan

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Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio has yet to outline any specific LGBTQ policies for his 2020 presidential campaign, However, as a congressman, the Human Rights Campaign has given Ryan equality voting scores of 100 during each of his last three terms. In 2017, Ryan spoke against the Trump administration's transgender military ban and described "don't ask, don't tell" as an "antiquated and discriminatory requirement." Last year, he encouraged state legislators to pass the Ohio Fairness Act, a bill which would add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the state's discrimination protections.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

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Sen. Bernie Sanders has a lengthy record of LGBTQ advocacy, having advocated for the abolishment of anti-gay laws since the 1970s. In his career as a lawmaker, he's signed a Gay Pride Day proclamation, opposed "don't ask, don't tell," supported legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont, and passed an anti-discrimination housing ordinance, according to Splinter News. However, according to Time, Sanders' opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act is somewhat controversial as he'd framed it as an issue of state's rights, not civil rights.

As part of his 2020 campaign, Sanders has called for passing the Equality Act, advancing pro-LGBTQ student policies, and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination against health insurance providers, creditors, and banks. He has also vowed to oppose any legislation that would place "protection" of religious freedom over equality.

Rep. Eric Swalwell

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At the moment, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California doesn't have any specific policy initiatives regarding LGBTQ rights outlined as part of his 2020 campaign platform. However, Swalwell does have a strong history of supporting LGBTQ issues in Congress. According to his congressional website, Swalwell has consistently earned an equality voting score of 100 by the Human Rights Campaign, and has co-sponsored a number of equality-focused bills, including, the Equality Act. In 2018, he was one of more than 50 lawmakers to press Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to end the ban on medically necessary treatments for transgender veterans.

Donald Trump

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Since his election in 2016, Donald Trump has spearheaded or supported a slew of anti-LGBTQ policies. According to GLAAD, Trump's anti-LGBTQ record includes his ban on transgender people serving in the military, his rollback of Affordable Care Act discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and plans to implement policies enabling adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of "religious exemption."

Earlier this year, Trump announced his opposition to the Equality Act, with a senior administration official telling the Washington Blade that the Trump administration felt the bill was "filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights." Most recently, the Trump administration rejected U.S. embassies' requests to fly rainbow pride flags on embassy flagpoles during LGBTQ Pride month, NBC News reported.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

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If you've followed the 2020 election at all, you may have heard the joke that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything. So it's no surprise then that she rolled out a LGBTQ rights agenda via NewNowNext in May. In it, she vowed to pass the Equality Act, institute a federal ban on conversion therapy, repeal the Trump administration's transgender military ban, enact anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, and reverse the State Department's recent decision to deny family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats.

But according to Uproxx, some have criticized Warren's LGBTQ plan as being too narrowly focused, and called on her to consider policies geared at decriminalizing sex work and curbing the incarceration rates of LGBTQ people.

Bill Weld

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During the 2016 Republican primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said he'd been a supporter of LGBTQ rights since the very first month he was in office. "I was way out there by myself on gay and lesbian rights, starting my first month in office, in January 1991. And for 10 years, no one followed suit."

GLAAD confirmed Weld's "pro-LGBTQ record" earlier this year in a press release claiming he could "help usher in a new wave of acceptance" for the Republican Party. While serving as the governor of Massachusetts, Weld established the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and appointed Margaret H. Marshall to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Marshall would later go on to author the court's ruling regarding same-sex couples' constitutionally-protected right to marriage equality.

Marianne Williamson

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While spiritual author and speaker Marianne Williamson has no voting record to reflect upon, LGBTQ Nation has described her as having "in-depth ties to the gay community" due to the lectures she's given on the idea of love without condemnation. On her 2020 campaign website, Williamson has expressed support for the Equality Act and collecting census data on LGBTQ citizens. She has also vowed to end discrimination against LGBTQ people in areas of health care, housing, employment, and services.

Andrew Yang

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So far, much of Andrew Yang's 2020 presidential campaign has centered around establishing a universal basic income. His campaign website lists only one policy directive under "LGBTQ Rights": extending federal anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, Yang also has argued that a universal basic income "would be a game changer for millions, particularly those at higher risk" like the LGBTQ community. "LGBTQ Americans are more likely to be kicked out of the house or fired from a job based on their identity," he tweeted. "UBI would help provide security and a path forward for all Americans."

While the Equality Act would, if signed into law, provide LGBTQ people with a number of protections when it comes to things like housing, employment, and other public accommodations, it's by no means the endgame for LGBTQ rights. And as the 2020 election continues to heat up, voters are likely to press presidential candidates on their plans to fully advance and protect LGBTQ rights.