On Thursday, three 2020 Democratic presidential contenders — Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris — released official plans for how their administrations will promote LGBTQ equality should they be elected.
The plans’ release was coordinated to be released just hours ahead of the start of the “Power of Our Pride,” a town hall for presidential candidates specifically focusing on LGBTQ issues. The event, which will be held at The Novo in Los Angeles, is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and CNN and will become the first-ever LGBTQ-specific town hall to be broadcast on a major cable news network when it airs tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST. The town hall takes place on the eve of the 31st National Coming Out Day, a celebration of those who come out as LGBTQ or as allies to the community.
Buttigieg, Warren, and Harris are among nine candidates who will participate in the town hall, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J,), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and businessman Tom Steyer. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang were invited but declined to attend, and Sen. Bernie Sanders had planned to attend but withdrew due to personal reasons.
As the only major LGBTQ candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, Buttigieg’s plan will no doubt be scrutinized the most harshly, especially given the criticism from some on the political left who have expressed trepidation about supporting Buttigieg because of his demeanor, his policy positions — which some have deemed not radical enough — and his failure to talk about issues of intersectionality, particularly issues that disproportionately affect low-income LGBTQ people, LGBTQ immigrants, and LGBTQ people of color.
Such criticisms have clearly frustrated Buttigieg, who has tried to balance the historic nature of his candidacy as the first viable Democratic LGBTQ candidate for the presidency with becoming labeled by the rest of America as a niche candidate. At one point, the South Bend mayor commented that he “can’t even read the LGBTQ media anymore” — a statement he later backtracked from, attributing it to being “grumpy.”
In an attempt to clarify his positions and rebut those criticisms that his campaign has not focused enough on LGBTQ issues Buttigieg released an 18-page white paper, titled “Becoming Whole: A New Era for LGBTQ+ Americans,” which outlines his major LGBTQ policy positions. The document reads like a wish list of LGBTQ priorities, and has planks that specifically address concerns raised by or disproportionately affecting immigrant communities, transgender individuals, and LGBTQ people of color.
In summary, Buttigieg’s plans include 19 major planks: 1) prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people; 2) ending the blanket ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood; 3) protecting the rights of intersex individuals; 4) improving access to health care for LGBTQ individuals; 5) reducing LGBTQ disparities in mental health; 6) ending the HIV epidemic by 2030; 7) protecting LGBTQ students in schools from bullying; 8) ending conversion therapy by declaring it a form of consumer fraud; 9) protecting the rights of LGBTQ families and having their relationships recognized as valid by the government; 10) ending youth homelessness; 11) providing more funding for LGBTQ programs and initiatives; 12) protecting the public safety of LGBTQ, particularly transgender, individuals; 13) addressing the high rates of criminalization within the LGBTQ community; 14) honoring LGBTQ veterans; 15) protecting LGBTQ seniors; 16) celebrating LGBTQ history and culture and recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ people; 17) advocating for LGBTQ rights globally; 18) appointing qualified LGBTQ people to positions in his administration; and 19) launching the We Belong National Mentorship Program, which will call on leaders within the public and private sectors to mentor and more fully support LGBTQ youth.
Within each of those planks are a number of priorities that are common to those familiar with LGBTQ issues, including passing the Equality Act, restoring pro-LGBTQ guidance for federal agencies, particularly the Justice and Education Departments, that was repealed by the Trump administration, prohibiting discrimination in adoption and foster care, ending the ban on transgender service members in the military, and prohibiting the use of religious exemptions as justification for discrimination.
But Buttigieg’s plan also includes priorities that are not included in most candidates’ plans: the establishment of a third, nonbinary gender option, “X” on U.S. passports; banning unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex infants and children; funding targeted initiatives that address health disparities affecting lesbian and bisexual women; ensuring access to PrEP and taking steps to make Truvada, which is used as PrEP, more affordable by allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, and, if that fails, exercising eminent domain on PrEP-related patents; promoting diversion programs, sentencing reforms, and rehabilitation programs to reduce incarceration rates; and reforming the Prison Rape Elimination Act to provide better protections and less severe punishments for LGBTQ people in prison.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Buttigieg, praised his “Becoming Whole” plan for taking an intersectional approach to many issues and addressing those topics that don’t get a lot of attention in the mainstream media.
“Pete’s put forward a comprehensive, inclusive and ambitious plan to tackle the myriad issues affecting LGBTQ people in America — and when his vision is implemented it will transform the United States into a global leader on LGBTQ equality,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “His lived experience as an LGBTQ person — as well as the experiences and struggles of LGBTQ friends and people he meets on the campaign trail — clearly informed and strengthened this plan for our community. It addresses complex issues that are rarely discussed by national politicians but deeply affect the everyday lives of millions of LGBTQ Americans. This proposal will be the high standard that other Democratic presidential candidates will be compared to.”
Warren and Harris touch on similar issues in their LGBTQ platforms, with Warren touting the possibility of ending the filibuster in the U.S. Senate to ensure that Senate Republicans will not be able to block up-or-down votes on bills like the Equality Act. She also would require any contractor seeing federal grants to prioritize LGBTQ nondiscrimination, would fast-track investigations into allegations of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and would expand civil rights testing to ensure those receiving federal funds are complying with executive orders she may issue.
Warren, who is best known for her advocacy on behalf of consumers and has made ending the corruption associated with money in politics a central issue in her campaign, has promised to support limiting the use of “qualified immunity” — a legal rule used to block lawsuits against government officials for misconduct. Additionally, in keeping with her progressive positions on economic issues, she also promises to pursue a jobs agenda that will strengthen the economic security of LGBTQ Americans, and institute an affordable housing plan, which she hopes will reduce rates of homelessness among both the general population and the LGBTQ community.
Harris, a former prosecutor, has adopted some unique planks of her own, including, most notably, ending cash bail and eliminating private prisons to combat incarceration of LGBTQ people and others. On immigration, she vows to increase the numbers of refugees admitted to the United States and match them with the appropriate services, including legal counsel, and would treat LGBTQ refugees as a vulnerable population for purposes of asylum.
Harris also promises to establish a transgender fellowship to uplift promising leaders within the transgender community and give them the skills and training to effect change within their local communities. She would restore and fill the position of Chief Advocate for LGBTQ+ Affairs and direct them to work with various government agencies to develop a funding initiative to provide educational, employment, and quality-of-life support for transgender individuals.
The “Power of Our Pride” town hall will be broadcast on CNN and via mobile devices at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10. For more information, visit www.cnn.com.