On Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg unveiled his plans for how he'd promote equality for LGBTQ Americans if elected to the Oval Office.
Speaking on a call with reporters, Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent now seeking the Democratic nomination, touted his record on LGBTQ rights as New York City Mayor from 2002 to 2014.
That record includes launching the New York City Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Runaway and Homeless Youth, supporting the opening of the Harvey Milk School, the first public high school for LGBTQ+ students, and mandating LGBTQ competency training for workers in the city's public hospital system in an effort to tackle LGBTQ health disparities.
Bloomberg also specifically highlighted his successful efforts lobbying Republican state lawmakers in Albany to approve marriage equality in New York, pointing to it as evidence that he could work across the aisle to get Republicans on board with some of his policy priorities.
“This is an issue that really does mean a lot to me, and so I wanted you to hear it directly from me today,” Bloomberg said. “I have a long history with this issue. I came out in favor of marriage equality back in 2005, which was a lot earlier than my opponents in this race. And I didn't just talk about marriage equality, I worked to convince Republicans to vote for it…. I asked them to listen to their families, and especially their children.”
Bloomberg noted that, despite some progress over the years, there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
He also expressed concerns over violence directed against transgender individuals, and over the military benefits still currently being denied to LGBTQ soldiers discharged under the now-defunct “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.
“The march for equality and justice has always been too slow. But, I will say, it has never stopped. And I think it's up to the president to help pick up the pace,” Bloomberg said.
He also accused President Trump of breaking campaign promises to be a “better friend” to LGBTQ people as president than his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, pointing to Trump's appointments of judges with documented anti-LGBTQ animus to the federal judiciary, and his various executive actions that prioritize so-called “religious liberty” at the expense of LGBTQ individuals and other groups.
“This is a fight and a cause I care deeply about. Expanding freedoms and rights is what America is all about. It's what makes our country the place where the world wants to live,” Bloomberg said. “I did it all when I was in New York City. You can look at the record. I am going to be a president for all Americans, and you can be sure of that…. And I'm going to bring our country back together to start repairing the damage that this president has done.”
Specifically, Bloomberg's plan seeks to ensure equal treatment for LGBTQ Americans by pushing for passage of the Equality Act, a bill approved by the House of Representatives last year that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in various aspects of their lives.
Much of Bloomberg's LGBTQ policy, with respect to economic empowerment, dovetails with his overall economic plan, which has specific planks dedicated to promoting housing stability and addressing economic disparities in rural America.
Among the economic promises he makes are that he will invest in community college partnerships and apprenticeships to match people with available jobs; set up “Business Resource Centers” across the country to assist entrepreneurs in creating jobs by allowing accessing capital, navigating bureaucratic hurdles, and taking advantage of federal programs; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and pay it monthly; and allow workers to organize and bargain collectively.
As part of his LGBTQ equality plan, Bloomberg promises to expand health coverage and nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, including ensuring the right of transgender people to access medically necessary gender-affirming care.
He vows to invest in HIV/AIDS research and prevention to curb the epidemic by 2030, and invest resources to address mental health issues and substance abuse.
To combat bullying and harassment in schools, Bloomberg has proposed a federal “Respect for All” initiative. He has promised to strengthen suicide prevention efforts, ban conversion therapy and pull federal funding for organizations that engage in it, and address youth homelessness. He supports the Do No Harm Act, which seeks to ensure that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not used to justify discrimination against minority groups.
Bloomberg also supports prosecuting the murders of transgender people as hate crimes, and has called for police to undergo culturally competent training that focuses on de-escalating conflicts and combating implicit bias, particularly with respect to LGBTQ individuals.
He does not have plans to call for the decriminalization of sex work at this time, but is exploring the possibility of alternate sentencing or diversion programs for those arrested for engaging in survival sex work.
On immigration, Bloomberg believes that LGBTQ people who are fleeing violence directed against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity should be granted asylum in the United States.
He has promised to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program and fight for a path to citizenship for DREAMers, or those young people born elsewhere but raised in the United States since childhood.
With respect to military members and veterans, Bloomberg will lift the current Department of Defense prohibition on transgender individuals enlisting and serving openly, including allowing transgender individuals to access gender-affirming care.
He also promises to restore the benefits of soldiers who were dismissed under the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.
In response to a question from Metro Weekly about the former mayor's ability to lobby Republicans to support legislation like the Equality Act — particularly in light of stated Republican support for the religious exemption-laden Fairness for All Act — sources close to the Bloomberg campaign say they believe that, if elected, he would be working with a Democratic-controlled House and Senate.
However, if either chamber were controlled by Republicans, those sources point to the former mayor's ability to work with Republican lawmakers in Albany as evidence of his powers of persuasion and ability to build coalitions to achieve policy priorities.
In addition, Bloomberg's campaign also touted endorsement from two fashion industry leaders who support his candidacy, and specifically, his LGBTQ agenda: Tim Gunn and Isaac Mizrahi.
Both men have joined the campaign's National LGBTQ+ Leadership Council, which is spearheading “Proud with Mike,” an outreach initiative that seeks to engage LGBTQ+ voters and allies for whom LGBTQ equality is a factor in deciding their vote.
“The fight for LGBTQ+ rights didn't end with our marriage equality victory in the Supreme Court,” Tim Gunn, the host of Making the Cut and former host of Project Runway, said. “Five years later, it's still legal in many states for an employer to fire an LGBTQ+ person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Mike Bloomberg knows this runs counter to America's fundamental values of equality, liberty, and justice. And he has the compassion and courage of his convictions to fight for what's right.”
“Our country has come a long way since my days as a young boy afraid to come out of the closet, but there's still so much more we need to do to create a safe and inclusive environment for all of our LGBTQ+ youth,” Mizrahi added. “No LGBTQ+ young person should ever have to worry about whether they'll get bullied at school just for being who they are or, even worse, end up homeless because their family doesn't accept them. I'm proud to support Mike Bloomberg because he's been a faithful friend to the LGBTQ+ community for many years and will fight for our safety and equal rights as president.”
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