Metro Weekly

Elizabeth Warren: Where does she stand on LGBTQ rights?

Massachusetts senator is a fierce supporter of LGBTQ rights, though her past stance on transgender inmate health care raised eyebrows

Sen. Elizabeth Warren — Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

This article is part of a series examining the LGBTQ-related histories of the main Democratic candidates for president.

Candidate: Elizabeth Warren
Political Office: U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
Biggest LGBTQ achievement: Pressuring the FDA to eliminate its lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood
Current RCP polling average: 2nd

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is best known for her powerful stance against corruption and moneyed special interests, which she has made the cornerstone of both her Senate campaigns and her presidential campaign.

For Warren, bigotry in any form needs to be pushed back against, in part because social issues like LGBTQ rights are often used to distract and hamstring progressives and prevent them from implementing change. And when it comes to her legislative history, though short, Warren has repeatedly sided with equality.

Upon arriving in the U.S. Senate in 2013, Warren urged the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and advocated for allowing individual states to recognize same-sex marriages as valid. That same year, she voted for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have prevented workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Warren also voted for an LGBTQ-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act that included protections for same-sex partners who are victims of domestic violence.

In July 2015, Warren and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) led their congressional colleagues in signing a letter to the Food and Drug Administration requesting that it lift the ban on gay and bisexual males donating blood, recommending instead a one-year deferral period from the time of last sexual contact — a policy adopted by the FDA later that year.

In 2017, Warren was one of 46 U.S. senators to co-sponsor the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for LGBTQ individuals in employment, credit, housing, and public accommodations. She has subsequently co-sponsored the 2019 version of the legislation as well.

In 2019, Warren was one of 18 senators who signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting an explanation of why the State Department did not issue an official statement commemorating Pride Month nor issue a cable advising U.S. embassies abroad on how best to celebrate Pride. The letter also criticized the Trump administration for its refusal to allow some embassies to fly Pride flags on official embassy flagpoles during Pride Month and for leaving the LGBTQI special envoy position within the State Department unfilled.

Warren has supported federal protections for transgender youth in schools, and was critical of the Trump administration when pages relating to LGBTQ health issues were censored or removed from federal websites.

According to ThinkProgress, Warren’s one negative blemish on her LGBTQ record was her statement during her 2012 campaign that giving a transgender inmate gender confirmation surgery was not a “good use of taxpayer dollars.” Warren has since reversed course on the issue, saying she supports “access to medically necessary services, including transition-related surgeries,” regardless of whether they take place at the VA, in the military, or at correctional facilities.

On her presidential campaign website, Warren reiterates her support for the Equality Act, as well as expanding the Fair Housing Act to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Known for her support for Medicare for All, Warren has linked the popular policy with the fight for LGBTQ equality. She supports providing access to reproductive care to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, and has opposed the Trump administration’s efforts to push for religious exemptions that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people, including in the provision of health care services to transgender people.

Warren also opposes President Trump’s ban on transgender military personnel; supports the Do No Harm Act to ensure that religious liberty is not used as a justification for ignoring or trampling on another person’s civil rights; and supports efforts to ban conversion therapy by classifying it as a form of consumer fraud.

Warren recently introduced the Senate version of a bill, known as the PRIDE Act, which would allow same-sex couples who were legally married when the Defense of Marriage Act was still in effect to recoup the tax refunds they would have been owed had their marriage been recognized by the federal government. She also supports reversing the State Department’s decision to deny visas to unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats.

Warren is one of only five Democratic candidates — the others being Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro — who have agreed to take part in two separate forums focusing on LGBTQ rights.

The first, hosted by GLAAD in conjunction with One Iowa, The Gazette and The Advocate, will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sept. 20, with Pose and American Horror Story star Angelica Ross emceeing. The second, hosted by CNN in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign, will be the first LGBTQ-focused town hall to be broadcast on a major cable network on Oct. 10.

Read more candidate profiles here:

Joe Biden: Where does he stand on LGBTQ rights?

Kamala Harris: Where does she stand on LGBTQ rights?

Bernie Sanders: Where does he stand on LGBTQ rights?

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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