By Nico Lang and Kate Sosin
As LGBTQ people across the country celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the 2020 presidential hopefuls will be ringing in Pride month with voters. Candidates have already begun rolling out their ceremonial merch—from Kirsten Gillibrand’s “Brave and Proud” collection, which features a bisexual Pride t-shirt, to Elizabeth Warren campaign tote bags that spell out “PERSIST” in rainbow letters.
But how many are actually peddling LGBTQ agendas? NewNowNext surveyed the campaign websites of all 25 presidential candidates—including Donald Trump—and found that less than half of them mention LGBTQ issues. Of that total, just seven of the contenders go into detail about their vision for queer and trans equality, to varying results. Five of them mention LGBTQ rights in passing, often with a vague reference to fighting discrimination.
The rest—numbering 13 candidates in total—leave out LGBTQ policy goals altogether. Some of those candidates are new to the race, while others do not spell out their campaign platforms on their official websites. But others may surprise you.
Here’s the full breakdown:
CANDIDATES WITH SPECIFIC LGBTQ POLICIES
The first openly LGBTQ candidate to have a major shot at winning the Democratic nomination, Buttgieg’s website includes an overview of his LGBTQ platform under the “Freedom” tab. His proposed policies include the passage of the Equality Act, a landmark bill that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in workplaces, schools, and other areas of everyday life; lifting the president’s ban on open trans military service; and preserving nondiscrimination protections for trans people in the Affordable Care Act.
“Pete knows that our families, communities, and nation are stronger when we allow all individuals to be true to who they are,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s website claims. “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not limit them from pursuing their dreams and realizing their full potential—to work, live, and go to school where they want; to love whom they choose, and to live safe, healthy lives.”
The 37-year-old, who is currently polling in fifth in the 2020 Democratic race, would also work as president to “pass safe schools legislation,” “combat bullying and harassment,” “protect LGBTQ asylum seekers,” and “improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth, parents, and families.” He also calls for criminal justice reform to “combat the overrepresentation and mistreatment of LGBTQ people” in U.S. prisons, where queer and trans individuals are three times as likely to be incarcerated as the average person.
His platform, however, does not include mention of his policies on issues like anti-gay conversion therapy, the decriminalization of sex work, or restoring cuts to global HIV/AIDS funding.
The former Maryland House representative outlines a number of detailed policy priorities when it comes to securing LGBTQ rights. Delaney notes that he “was proud to be a member of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus and he received a 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign for each of his three terms.”
“We have made tremendous progress in recent years, but the fight for full civil rights for all LGBTQ Americans isn’t over,” he claims.
Delaney vows to reinstate transgender military service, oppose voter ID laws that seek to prevent trans and nonbinary people from participating in elections, and back legislation to ensure that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects LGBTQ students. He also supports the Equality Act, including a provision that would permit the Department of Justice to “challenge discriminatory actions” against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, health care, or other areas of public life. The one-time lawmaker is also the only 2020 candidate to explicitly support a federal ban on conversion therapy on their campaign website.
Noticeably absent, however, is mention of health care protections for transgender people, restoring global HIV/AIDS funding, or decriminalizing sex work.
The New York Senator’s official website is very heavy on details about what she’s already done as an elected lawmaker and less detailed about what she would do if elected president. Claiming the candidate has “long stood side by side with the LGBTQ community,” her website discusses her role in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and support for open trans military service. The campaign also claims she has “consistently spoken out against the rising rate of hate crimes against LGBTQ people—especially trans women of color.”
Lastly, the site also mentions her support for the right of “LGBTQ people to work, get housing, adopt and foster children, serve in the military, and go to school without discrimination,” without specifically naming her support of the Equality Act. All Senate Democrats have signed on as cosponsors of the landmark bill.
Although Gillibrand’s website doesn’t go into further detail, the candidate shared a 20-point plan for LGBTQ equality with NewNowNext, which is also available on her Medium page. It includes expanding PrEP access, allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood, and requiring insurance plans to cover hormone access for transgender people. That latter provision, however, does not mention whether insurers would be required to cover gender-affirming surgery.
The Junior Senator’s campaign website begins with a detailed account of her LGBTQ rights record both as a Congressional lawmaker and a California prosecutor. In the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, she helped establish “an LGBTQ hate crimes unit” and married same-sex couples when the city briefly legalized marriage equality in 2004. During her time as the California Attorney General, she worked to ban use of the “panic defense” in cases of anti-LGBTQ violence and “refused to defend California’s discriminatory Prop. 8 in court, setting the stage for nationwide marriage equality.”
Her LGBTQ issues page also notes that since her election to the Senate in 2017, Harris has sponsored a bill to include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the U.S. Census and fought to “prevent the use of religious beliefs as a justification to discriminate against LGBTQ people.”
“We must speak truth: Homophobia and transphobia are real in this country, and they’re being fueled by an administration that openly attacks Americans based on who they are or who they love,” her campaign claims. “We’re at an inflection point in our struggle for equality, and Kamala won’t leave anyone to fight alone. Together, we’ll fight for the equality of the LGBTQ community in all of its diversity.”
Among the issues in her 2020 platform, Harris states her support for the Equality Act, rolling out a third gender option for trans and nonbinary people on passports and other forms of federal documentation, furthering LGBTQ rights in America’s foreign policy, and overturning Trump’s trans military ban, which she claims she would do on her first day in office. As president, Harris also says she would work to reinstate Obama-era nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ federal employees and government contractors nixed by the current administration and would appoint an Attorney General “who makes investigating and prosecuting hate crimes a priority.”
While Harris also notes that she “plans to invest in law enforcement training on interactions with LGBTQ individuals,” it’s unclear how she would rollout competency training for local police stations.
Those policies are undoubtedly extensive, but that are some noticeable gaps. After being dinged early in her campaign for supporting FOSTA/SESTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill that shut down resources like Backpage.com, she detailed her plans to decriminalize sex work in a recent BuzzFeed News report. However, her campaign page does not connect those dots to LGBTQ people, who are disproportionately likely to engage in sex work. Meanwhile, Harris does not discuss her views on anti-gay conversion therapy or allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood, despite her record of advocacy on both issues.
The Vermont Senator often touts his record as an early supporter of LGBTQ rights, dating back to his days as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. While his platform isn’t as extensive as that legacy might suggest, what is listed on his campaign site is detailed and specific.
Sanders’ eight-point plan for LGBTQ equality—spelled out in bullet points—includes passage of legislation like the Equality Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, the latter of which would prevent state-funded adoption and foster care agencies from turning away same-sex couples. He also voices support for anti-bullying protections in schools, furthering LGBTQ rights in American foreign policy, preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care and from insurance agencies, training police departments in LGBTQ competency, and fighting against so-called “religious liberty” proposals.
“The United States has made remarkable progress on gay rights in a relatively short amount of time,” his website notes. “But there is still much work to be done. Incredibly, it is still legal to deny someone housing or service in the military for being transgender. That is unacceptable and must change.”
However, what’s left out of Sanders’ platform is just as notable as what he includes. The self-described Democratic Socialist does not discuss many of the major issues impacting LGBTQ voters in the 2020 race—such as the rollbacks of equality under the current administration, banning anti-gay conversion therapy at the federal level, restoring federal data collection on LGBTQ people, and the blood ban for gay and bisexual men.
And although the above quote discusses his opposition to Trump’s trans military ban, he stops just short of saying he would sign an executive order overturning it.
The author and activist has the most extensive LGBTQ rights page of any candidate in the race. Williamson lays out in great detail the hardships facing queer Americans, from employment discrimination to a string of anti-transgender bathroom bills sweeping the nation.
“The ability to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination is a right denied, every day, to members of the LGBTQ communities,” she laments.
She pledges to back the Equality Act and support LGBTQ rights in housing, health care, and services. She calls says LGBTQ people in the census would be “an imperative asset” for the U.S. government.
While her platform is longer than any other candidates (it’s more than 1,200 words), beyond inclusion in the U.S. Census, it doesn’t actually provide a single concrete proposal. Missing are action items for responding to the rapid rollback of transgender health care access or a plan for undoing the transgender military ban. Williamson makes no mention of conversation therapy or global funding of HIV/AIDS programs.
Her plan to address housing discrimination notes that LGBTQ people are not covered under the federal Fair Housing Act, but makes no mention of her strategy to amend that exclusion. It also doesn’t note that just days ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a proposal to greenlight discrimination against transgender people in homeless shelters.
While Andrew Yang’s campaign website includes a page dedicated to his LGBTQ rights platform, it’s pretty light on specifics.
For instance, the venture capitalist discusses his support for “any legislation extending protected status to individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” but does not mention the Equality Act by name. Along the same lines, Yang claims that, if elected president, he would work to back programs “directed at educating the public on LGBTQ issues” and “meant to help LGBTQ individuals who are facing discrimination because of their identity.” However, there’s no explanation of how he might launch a nationwide pro-LGBTQ education campaign.
But in lieu of policy details, Yang affirms his longtime support for marriage equality. “Who you love and how you love are up to you,” reads a pull quote that appears to be directly quoting the candidate. “[...] I’ve always been pro-gay marriage; why should straight people have all of the fun? People are people and all love is beautiful.”
Following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, the issue is unlikely to factor into the 2020 election.
BRIEFLY MENTIONS LGBTQ RIGHTS
The U.S. Senator from Colorado offers a passing mention of LGBTQ rights on a page outlining his vision to “restore American values.” Without mentioning the Equality Act by name, his campaign site claims that he “will fight to protect all Americans from discrimination, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability” if elected to the White House.” It’s an odd omission. When the landmark LGBTQ rights bill was reintroduced this year, Bennet released a statement claiming it’s “far past time for federal laws to be entirely free from discrimination.”
His campaign website for the U.S. Senate suffered from the same problems. While his platform on “Justice and Equality” at least mentions the Equality Act, the Democratic lawmaker did not offer any other plans for LGBTQ rights.
The New Jersey Senator doesn’t have a section on his website dedicated to outlining his platform. His Medium page, which features policy proposals along with the occasional op-ed, doesn’t include an LGBTQ agenda. His website notes, however, that Booker is “an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans.”
The Washington Governor heavily focuses on climate issues on his campaign website, but he does make mention of LGBTQ people twice in his pitch for commander-in-chief. He calls for an “end [to the] harassment of, discrimination against, and denial of LGBTQ immigrants,” and notes that the expansion of solitary confinement in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities disproportionately hurts LGBTQ people.
The former Texas Congressman very briefly mentions LGBTQ issues on his website, which discusses his plan for immigration reform, national security, immigration, climate change, and campaign finance at length. O’Rourke pledges to “ensure everyone can succeed regardless of their family dynamics, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their race.”
While calling to end “discrimination in the workplace,” he does not specifically mention LGBTQ people or highlight his views on the Equality Act, for which all 2020 Democratic candidates have expressed their support.
The California representative does not include LGBTQ issues in his official platform. But his personal biography states that Swalwell has furthered “LGBTQ equality, comprehensive immigration reform, and [protections for] a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
NO MENTION OF LGBTQ RIGHTS
The former Vice President's issues page doesn’t include any mention of LGBTQ people, although the website is short on policy overall. The scant details of his vision for the presidency include buzzwords like restoring democracy, rebuilding the middle class, and demonstrating leadership. However, in a recent speech delivered at a Human Rights Campaign gala, Biden declared the Equality Act’s passage to be a top priority if elected to the White House.
“It will be the first thing I ask to be done,” Biden said.
A spokesperson for Biden’s campaign told NewNowNext that an agenda outlining the candidate’s vision for LGBTQ rights will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
The Montana Governor’s website devotes its policy plan to “One Big Idea”: Bullock’s plan to crack down corporate influence and corruption in elections. However, LGBTQ issues are not mentioned in the five-point agenda.
The former San Antonio Mayor doesn’t list policy details on his website, which is heavy on biographical details. However, Castro has two Pride t-shirts for sale, one of which reads, “Hey, y’all means all” in rainbow font.
Bill de Blasio
The New York City Mayor doesn’t mention LGBTQ issues on his website because he hasn’t yet unveiled his 2020 platform. De Blasio only entered the race in mid-May.
Tulsi Gabbard does not mention LGBTQ issues on her campaign website, as she does not yet have a page disclosing her 2020 platform. However, the website for her 2018 re-election campaign to the U.S. House does go into greater detail, discussing her record of sponsoring legislation on workplace nondiscrimination and expanding same-sex marriage rights for LGBTQ couples.
The former Colorado Governor does not mention LGBTQ issues on his campaign website. Outside of his personal biography, Hickenlooper does not break down any specifics of his 2020 platform.
The Minnesota Senator does not mention LGBTQ issues on her campaign website, as it does not have a page spelling out specifics of Klobuchar’s platform. However, her official store includes Pride merch advertising her candidacy.
Messam’s website boasts an extensive list of policy details, ranging from immigration and gun reform to foreign policy. In total, he has 12 different pages dedicated to spelling out his 2020 platform. However, none of them mention LGBTQ issues. His biography does not reference LGBTQ rights either.
The Massachusetts lawmaker does not mention LGBTQ issues on his campaign website. His platform includes a public option for U.S. health care, signing the Green New Deal, and expanding mental health care.
The Ohio Congressman does not mention LGBTQ issues on his campaign website. Although he briefly discusses some of the central tenets of his candidacy, Ryan does not have a specific page outlining his platform.
President Trump has an extensive issues page, but has not taken space to weigh in about his support (or lack thereof) for LGBTQ people. For the first time in three years, he recognized June as Pride month in a tweet.
As NewNowNext recently noted, he is peddling Pride t-shirts.
Despite the Massachusetts Senator’s many, many policy proposals, she has yet to publish a plan for LGBTQ rights on her official campaign site. That said, she released an extensive LGBTQ agenda to NewNowNext in May, which discusses her views on wide-ranging issues like the Equality Act, restoring visas for the unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats, and the blood ban for gay and bisexual men.
The former Massachusetts Governor and Republican primary challenger to President Trump has not rolled out an LGBTQ platform on his website. It is worth noting, however, that Weld is viewed as longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights. He signed an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and backed the Obama administration’s guidance in on transgender bathroom protections.
In April, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis praised Weld as “what is needed and has been missing within the Republican Party: a campaign message about acceptance for all marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people.”