My strong support for the rights of LGBTQ+ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and other sexual or gender minorities) is borne of my lived experience, both from having LGBTQ+ friends and family members, and from serving in the military alongside brave LGBTQ+ servicemembers. As a Navy officer myself, I was deeply opposed to the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy from the time of its inception — and, when asked, I was not afraid to tell my commanding officers how I felt. In Congress, I worked hard on equality issues, and as President I will fight for full equality under the law for all LGBTQ+ people. The promise of America demands it.
During my four years in Congress, I made fighting for the rights of sexual and gender minorities a priority. I am a strong believer in justice, and for too long there has been no justice for LGBTQ+ people (a category which includes, but is not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, Two-Spirit, intersex, and asexual individuals). Six years before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, I was an original co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which — until Obergefell — prevented interstate and federal recognition of same-sex marriages. I also co-sponsored legislation to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and prohibit the military from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. And I co-sponsored the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act to extend federal hate crimes statutes to cover crimes motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Additionally, I worked hard to achieve equality in the workplace for LGBTQ+ Americans. I co-sponsored the Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act to allow employees to take the same amount of unpaid leave from work that is afforded to heterosexual spouses if their domestic partner (in the days before same-sex marriage was legalized) had a serious health condition. I also co-sponsored legislation to provide federal civilian LGBTQ+ workers with the same partnership benefits offered to all spouses of federal employees, including retirement, life insurance, and healthcare coverage. And, of course, I co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (or ENDA), which was introduced in almost every Congress since 1994, and shockingly is still not the law of the land. ENDA would have prohibited discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
As President, I will continue fighting for LGBTQ+ people, both in the United States and around the world. I will oppose laws that, under the guise of “religious liberty,” seek to maintain legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in public accommodations. I will work with states and municipalities to address mistreatment or neglectful treatment of LGBTQ+ people by first responders and other public officials. And I will do everything I can to stem the epidemic of bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ people, especially the shockingly high murder rate among transgender people of color, including by using the platform of the presidency to shine a spotlight on individual LGBTQ+ victims to ensure that justice is served. I will also pass and sign into law the Global Respect Act, an innovative piece of legislation that gives the US State Department necessary tools to bar from entry to this country anyone known to have committed human rights violations against LGBTQ+ people in other countries, and I will work with other countries to improve their laws and policies to expand the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The rules-based liberal world order should do a much better job of working on behalf of sexual and gender minorities around the world.
Equality under the law is a hallowed principle of the American system. Yet LGBTQ+ people are not legally entitled to the same rights and privileges from which heterosexual and cisgender Americans benefit. LGBTQ+ people can be fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation or gender identity. They can be passed over in hiring or for promotions. Landlords or hotel managers can legally throw LGBTQ+ people out into the streets. Banks can refuse loans and schools can refuse admission on the basis of nothing more than a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Few Americans even realize that our civil rights laws — which prevent discrimination on the basis of race, color, nationality, and in most cases sex, disability, and religion — do not prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is long past time to end this shameful inequity.
A piece of legislation known as the Equality Act — which recently passed the House of Representatives with all Democrats and eight Republicans in support — would finally end legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ people once and for all. The Equality Act, if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, would revise a variety of civil rights laws (including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and more) to spread all manner of civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people. Currently, only 21 states offer civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ people, so there is an urgent need for federal action to extend those rights across all 50 states and US territories.
As President, I will also take immediate action to overturn President Trump’s misguided and discriminatory decision to ban transgender people from serving in the US Armed Forces. We have an all-volunteer military, so we rely on Americans who wish to serve their country stepping forward to do so. It is a slap-in-the-face to the brave transgender and gender non-conforming people who volunteer to put their lives on the line only to be told, “No. You can’t serve your country in this way.” Having worn the cloth of this nation, I understand how deeply wrong that is. I served with transgender heroes who were forced to keep their identities secret, often over decades of service. It was deeply unfair to them then, and it is deeply unfair now. It also weakened the military. Anyone who steps forward to serve should be welcomed with open arms — and a customary salute — not a cold shoulder. Our military needs the best of the best, and no person’s gender identity disqualifies them from being the best of the best.
In recent decades, the broader public has become ever more accepting and knowledgeable of LGBTQ+ identities. In my lifetime, I have witnessed this remarkable shift and I’m grateful for it. But we still have a long way to go. Discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ people are still profound problems, and far too many Americans still hold biases and subscribe to negative stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people. The result of this is that suicide and other forms of self-harm are epidemic in the LGBTQ+ community, especially among transgender and gender non-conforming Americans. These are difficult and complicated issues to deal with — though universal healthcare with mental health coverage will go a long way toward providing support for LGBTQ+ people in crisis — but one important way to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people is to simply increase the visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ people in the public sphere. A President has great power to do just that.
As President, I will work proactively to include LGBTQ+ people in my administration, not only because I believe visibility and representation are important for the continued advancement of LGBTQ+ people in society, but — again — simply because this country needs the best of the best. I will also work to support and recruit LGBTQ+ candidates for public office, because though they have made great strides — with prominent LGBTQ+ legislators, mayors, and the first openly gay elected governor — they are still underrepresented. For far too long, voters and officials with appointment-power have overlooked the potential contributions of LGBTQ+ people to our collective enterprise, whether out of fear, misunderstanding, or for political expedience. I will ensure those days come to an end when I am President.